Jordan Valley Open Only to Non-resident Palestinians on Foot

The Israel Defense Forces is only partially implementing the directive of Defense Minister Amir Peretz to end the ban on Palestinians' entering the Jordan Valley. The IDF last week began allowing Palestinians who do not live in the Valley to pass through the checkpoints - but only on foot.

However, sources in the northern Jordan Valley told Haaretz that in the last few days soldiers at the Tayseer checkpoint did not permit pedestrians to pass through, contrary to instructions.

A tour last week by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem found that the soldiers at the Ujja checkpoint, north of Jericho, were entirely unaware of the directive and the change to permit pedestrian traffic.

Since the beginning of 2005, the IDF has banned Palestinians from entering the Jordan Valley, except those registered as living there (some 27,000 people). Jericho residents were also barred from entering other areas in the valley.

Several thousand agriculture laborers in the Palestinian communities have to apply to the Civil Administration for permits to enter their land.

People without a registered address in the Jordan Valley who are caught residing there have been deported beyond the checkpoints.

The closure of the Jordan Valley and Highway 90 to Palestinian traffic was never formalized in a military order, but since 2000, Highway 90 has been off limits to Palestinians who are not valley residents. Attorney Limor Yehuda, of the Association of Civil Rights in Israel, wrote to Peretz in December 2006 to demand that the orders behind these bans be revoked. The bans, she said, were imposed and enforced "without authority."

In April 2007, Yehuda was informed by Peretz's office that the traffic restrictions would be removed by the end of May 2007, and that access to the Jordan Valley region "will be permitted to all residents of Judea and Samaria, pending security checks at the various checkpoints."

The IDF Spokesman's Office told Haaretz in mid-April that the directives would be implemented after the regional command assesses the situation. Asked this week whether that assessment had occured, the Spokesman's Office responded: "There has been no change regarding the Command's directives on checking Palestinians entering the Valley. Vehicular entry to the Valley requires a permit, whereas pedestrian entry is unrestricted. Travel along Highway 90 is permitted to Palestinian residents of the Valley, or Palestinians whose entry to the Valley is permitted through the A-Zaim crossing."