"Do you approve this truck of flour?" the soldier at Harawa checkpoint south of Nablus yesterday morning asked the representative of the Civil Administration, who just happened to have arrived in his white car. "No," he answered. The soldier went back to the driver and gave him the word - "Go away, you don't have approval to pass." But the Civil Administration official went up to the disappointed truck driver and asked him in Arabic where he was from and what he was trucking, and then said that at noon he could pass through the nearby checkpoint - at Awarta. "Twelve?" asked the driver. "It's only two hours," said the Civil Administration man.
The soldiers let a few ambulances into Nablus. In the morning, the impression was that the soldiers were obeying their commanders' orders to allow "humanitarian cases" to go through the checkpoint, and to be respectful of the people. But by the afternoon, that impression was blurred. At the same checkpoint, but in the opposite direction, from Nablus south, two soldiers refused to allow a long line of cars whose drivers were equipped with special passes, to go through. Later, someone said an ambulance was carrying medicines that were not on the pass and that was the reason for the delay. Because of the delayed ambulance, people on foot, including an elderly lady just back from a week in Nablus Hospital after surgery on her head, were delayed. Her son and daughter were with her.
The soldiers would not let them cross the checkpoint to go home to their nearby village, Harawa. The soldiers also would not let her sit down in the only available shade, near their hut, and demanded she back away, into the sun. It took outside intervention to finally let her through, about half an hour later.
Even if the "gradual cease-fire" succeeds throughout the West Bank, hundreds of checkpoints and blockades will remain. There are many signs that Israel plans to continue the policy of inner closures, the sieges on all the cities and villages, and limiting freedom of Palestinian movement between them. The policy has reach advanced stages of bureaucratic invention.
A new order recently came down to the checkpoints and blockade points - anyone who wants to move in the West Bank, between cities or to neighboring villages, must have a pass from the Civil Administration, otherwise the soldiers are to order them back to where they came from.
West Bankers are discovering it is becoming ever more difficult to find bypass roads around the official checkpoints where their travel passes are examined. There are more barbed wire fences, more blockades, more army patrols, and more armored personnel carriers that block the road and deter anyone who dares approach. The official instructions of the Palestinian Authority are to not ask for travel passes from the Civil Administration. But people see all the senior officials of the PA coming and going from the cities - equipped with Israeli passes - and ask what's the difference. More than ever, people intend to ask for the passes, for cars carrying food as well as passengers to visit their grandparents.
The more the army leaves the cities, the more the Civil Administration authorities will encounter requests for passes. "But it's an administrative disaster," said one foreign diplomat following the process of reforms in the PA. Just to implement a reformation of the legal system requires freedom of movement for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, witnesses and accused between the various districts. To revive the Palestinian financial sector so salaries and pensions can be paid - and so the work of the security forces can be renewed, as the gradual cease-fire plan says - requires economic activity, which requires freedom of movement.
An election will require freedom of movement for candidates and their activists. "The Civil Administration will need 50,000 new clerks just to issue travel passes for two million people within a reasonable period of time and in a routine manner," said the diplomat.
Hiring 50,000 clerks does not appear to be a vision for the foreseeable future. Therefore, the lack of freedom of movement will continue to dictate - and suffocate - the lives of three million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. The IDF is convinced this is the best way to prevent terror attacks against Israelis and soldiers inside thew West Bank. After two years of bloodshed, it is difficult to expect the army to immediately lift all the checkpoints, as Western countries have asked, and not fear that the Palestinians will seek vengeance on the soldiers and settlers traveling on the same road. On the other hand, everyone familiar with what happens at the checkpoints, and the suffering until a person can reach one, can see that they only increase Palestinian support for the tactics of terror and those who carry it out.
Some say the checkpoints daily recruit new volunteers for terror operations. Thus it will be difficult for the Palestinian security apparatus to operate against the organizations that promised to continue "the armed resistance." They don't want to look like "IDF-clones," only interested in the security of the Israeli settlers and their welfare. That has become the internal contradiction of the internal closure.
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