The Army Will Decide Who's a Resident

The route of the separation wall proves once again that the Israeli security-settlement establishment never misses an opportunity to exploit the self-evident need of Israelis to feel safe in their state to expropriate huge tracts of Palestinian lands and annex them de facto to the state of Israel.

The route of the separation wall in those areas where it has already gone up and where it is planned proves once again that the Israeli security-settlement establishment never misses an opportunity to exploit the self-evident need of Israelis to feel safe in their state to expropriate huge tracts of Palestinian lands and annex them de facto to the state of Israel.

Since the route is not on the Green Line, but runs deep into the Palestinian areas, a new zone has been created between the wall and the state of Israel. It is known as "the seam area," a euphemism that prettifies and blurs the flagrant annexation process.

But a small problem remains, in the form of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who live and work in the area that has been annexed de facto and will be annexed de facto in the future. Some new military orders, circulated last week in the villages in the "seam area" show that the lawyers working in the service of the security-settlement establishment have solved the problem. They created a new, separate legal category of Palestinians, distinct from the category of Jews who have already settled those areas or those who will want to move there in the future. The new category also distinguishes those Palestinians who fall into it, from Palestinians who live two meters east, on the other side of the route.

Backed up by documents couched in seemingly general and neutral legal language, the new category is separate by virtue of the new relationship being shaped in the area between the bureaucratic apparatus of the occupation army and part of the occupied population. The new category is called "long-term resident" and it is being institutionalized in the form of a new identification document called a "long-term resident's permit."

This specifically is derived from one order, signed by Maj. Gen. Moshe Kaplinski, who heads the Central Command, and three others signed by Ilan Paz, head of the Civil Administration. The instructions seemingly deal with only the arrangements for the presence and movement of the Palestinians in those specified areas, but a careful reading shows that they also give the Israeli authorities broad, frightening powers to throw Palestinians out of their homes, off their lands and away from their families.

This is the reality that arises from these new regulations: The area is open to any Israeli who wants to settle and work there. According to the new regulations, an Israeli is someone who also has the right to be so according to the Law of Return - in other words, any Jew in the world is allowed to settle in those areas, plus others who are allowed to become citizens on the basis of the Law of Return.

The area is closed to all Palestinians who want to reside, settle and work in the area, except for those exceptions that the army and its lawyers designate as being allowed to do so. Those exceptions are those Palestinians already living in the areas. They will be allowed to remain, if they meet the conditions set by Israeli military committees and if they convince those committees that they indeed live in those areas.

The Israeli military committees will determine which Palestinians can move into and live in those areas and which cannot. Army officers will determine which of the "long-term residents" will be allowed to move around: to "leave" the area to go a nearby Palestinian village that is beyond the fence, or to a nearby Palestinian city - and come back. The officers will also decide when those departures and returns can take place. Twice a day, or three times a month, for example.

Israeli military committees will be authorized to decide which Palestinians who are not "long-term residents" will be allowed into the areas, and when they will be allowed in. A person whose entire property is inside the area will only be allowed in through the graces of a decision by those officers. The same is true for trash collection vehicles, doctors, relatives, friends, teachers, phone technicians and Palestinian water department workers. All those and others will have to fill in forms, make requests, bring proof and documentation, in a process that experience has already proved will take a very long time in the nerve-wracking bureaucracy of the Civil Administration - just to get - or not to get - permission to enter the forbidden zone.

The "long-term resident permits" have to be renewed once a month, for a period to be determined by the military commanders and their lawyers. The military committees are allowed to decide that a person is no longer eligible to be a "long-term resident," meaning they are authorized to demand that person leave the area. In other words, the committees will determine the number and identity of the people who will be required to give up their "long-term resident permit" and be required to leave the area.

Army officers, as experience shows, will make wondrous use of the security claims to justify removing people from their land. And, as experience shows, Israeli judges will understand those claims. And as experience shows, many Israelis will claim that everything is kosher if it prevents suicide bombers from reaching Israel.

But those people should not forget the facts: The route that is meant to protect the state of Israel is going invasively deep into West Bank territory, because of demands by the security-settlement establishment headed by the Sharon government. Thus, the area between the "barrier and the state of Israel " as the military order describes it, is woefully not empty of non-Jews. And now, without any shame, they are anchoring into military law conditions that will embitter the lives of the people in this occupied-annexed territory, until they are asked to leave or conditions enable the army to remove them.