Israeli Military Imposes Closure on West Bank, Gaza During Purim Holiday

Palestinians barred from entering Israeli territory as security measure; 77,000 legal Palestinian workers from West Bank to be affected.

Purim in Hebron, 2015.
Ilan Assayag

In an unusual step, the Israel Defense Forces is imposing a closure on the West Bank and Gaza during the Purim holiday, and will not allow Palestinians to enter Israeli territory.

The decision to prevent the entry of Palestinians from the West Bank into Israel was made by the political leadership on Tuesday, at the conclusion of a situation assessment. Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon approved the decision. This is a comprehensive step that will restrict the work of at least 80,000 Palestinians during the holiday and the coming weekend.

According to the decision, for 57,000 Palestinians employed in Israel who have work permits, entry into Israel will be prohibited starting tonight, until Saturday at 11:59 P.M. Another 20,000 Palestinians who have commercial permits in Israel will be prevented from entering. According to the IDF spokesman, during those days, which are defined as a time of “general closure,” entry into Israel will be permitted only in cases related to humanitarian and health-related issues. That will also require the approval of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. The defense establishment added that entry to the West Bank will be permitted.

On Wednesday it emerged that the closure will also apply to the Gaza Strip. Only some 870 Christians with the appropriate permits will be allowed to pass through the Erez Crossing for Easter.   

Usually, the defense establishment imposes a general closure on the territories during major Jewish holidays, mainly during Yom Kippur and Passover. Imposing a closure on Purim is considered exceptional, and has not been done in recent years. According to a defense establishment source, the decision originated with the political leadership, and is designed to reduce the friction between Palestinians and Israelis.

In the past, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot discussed the issue and claimed that those employed in Israel bring home a livelihood and hope, and therefore Israel has to focus its efforts on combating terror and “separate between the population and terror.”

“It’s not difficult to imagine what would happen if 120,000 (Palestinians who are employed in Israel and in the settlements) were under closure and were forbidden to work. So even practically speaking, beyond the question of values, there is an clear Israeli interest here,” said Eisenkot, favoring the policy that enables the Palestinians to continue to work in Israel.