According to the new closure rules imposed by the security forces on the territories in recent weeks, Palestinians who want to travel through the West Bank must be equipped with authorizations provided by the Civil Administration, there is only one point of exit for a pass-holder and no merchandise can move from one Palestinian area directly to another. Instead, goods have to be transported "back-to-back," meaning trucks will unload in specially-designated areas outside of cities for reloading into another truck allowed to travel inside that city.
The government's coordinator in the territories regards these new instructions as measures meant to make life easier for the Palestinians, after 20 months in which the closure and siege policies of the IDF completely disrupted movement of people and goods throughout the areas. Thus, under tight supervision, limited movement will at least be allowed for those people the Civil Administration is convinced have good reason, like work or family, for traveling from one city to another. And arrangements for bringing food and medicine into the cities will also be streamlined.
The security logic for institutionalizing the closure will convince every Israeli about the justification of these measures. Anything presented to Israelis as something that makes it more difficult for a suicide bomber to attack them (on both sides of the Green Line), is accepted without question and without debate inside Israel.
Nonetheless, the new rules are indications of several phenomena and scenarios to which the Israeli public should pay attention:
The Israeli government intends to maintain the policies of internal closures and sieges for a long time, and therefore, is now institutionalizing the division of the West Bank into Palestinian population centers cut off one from the other. This is against the pleas by the international community for the policy to be canceled, to enable the Palestinian Authority to meet its security commitments, halt the rapid deterioration of the Palestinian economy, revive its private commercial sector and create a "political horizon."
The supervision of Palestinian movement in the West Bank is meant to prevent unauthorized Palestinians from approaching settlements. Israel continues to operate according to the principle that the development of the settlements and the safety and welfare of their 200,000 residents in the West bank and Gaza (not counting East Jerusalem) justifies turning 3.5 million Palestinians into welfare recipients, imprisoned in their towns and villages. It seems that Israel, unlike the World Bank, is not worried about the possibility that 50 meters from Beit El or 200 meters from Ma'ale Adumim there are people who are becoming impoverished, and that their frustration levels are rising. To the World Bank, that looks like a security threat to Israelis in the long run. To Israelis it looks like the appropriate security response.
The Civil Administration system of passes has existed since 1991, and was first used to control movement from the territories into Israel. Now it has been expanded and is being used to control movement within the Palestinian areas. The new rules confirm what legal experts and Oslo skeptics have claimed for years: Israel and the IDF never ceased being the sovereign in those areas.
As sovereign in the territories, Israel is supposed to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian population under its control. But of all issues, it's on this one that Israel sticks to the Oslo agreement, insisting that the Palestinians must be responsible for the civil affairs of Palestinians: education, health, sanitation, welfare (a responsibility imposed on the PA with the assumption it would have the authority to develop its economy, a development process that requires control over the land). Now, as in the years of the Oslo process, the Israelis are convinced that they are free of any responsibility for the Palestinian population. Control over Palestinian areas, yes. Concern about the population, including guaranteeing the ability to provide for itself, no.
The community of donor countries has enlisted in the effort to prevent a humanitarian disaster, trying to find ways to revive the Palestinian economy. Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed into the Palestinian areas in the last two years. In other words, the international community is replacing the sovereign (Israel) responsibility for taking care of the civilian Palestinian population.
The donor countries agreed to support financially the Palestinians out of belief in the chances for the political process and peacemaking in the region. Despite their criticism of the closure policies, European and Arab countries are unable to apply political pressure on Israel because of overwhelming American support for Israel. Thus, these countries find themselves unwillingly financing the development of a new regime in the territories: disconnected Palestinian cantons, with limited self rule.
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