One of the questions raised immediately after it became clear that for the most part, the separation fence would not be built along the length of the Green Line, but in fact somewhere to the east of it, was the fate of the Palestinians living to the west of the fence. As of now, this fate is shared by approximately 12,000 persons living in 15 Palestinian villages and towns, from Salim in the northern West Bank to Mas’ha, to the south of Qalqilyah (near the settlement of Elkana). They are shut in between the separation fence to the east, and the Green Line to the west. As construction of the fence continues, deep into the territory of the West Bank, more Palestinians will find themselves in this situation.
Additionally, the fence affects the lives of tens of thousands of other people, whose homes are east of the fence, and whose land, on which they earn their livelihood, is to the west. All told, according to the findings of the Palestinian Department of Negotiations, the route that the first stage of the fence will take (up to Elkana on the south) has so far cut off from the West Bank about 100,000 dunams (25,000 acres) of Palestinian-owned land, some of which is settled, most of which is farmland.
The issues are real; already, the most serious concerns have been proven true. Even before the Palestinians had a chance to come to terms with the loss of their land for the sake of the series of fortifications that is known as the “obstacle,” they discovered that their ordinary lives had been completely disrupted – that it was possible to further disrupt their already disrupted reality of internal closures in the West Bank, curfews on cities and villages and military attacks. Farmers cannot make their way to their land; hothouses and orchards have been destroyed; olives are left unpicked; teachers and students fail to get to school because the gate of the separation fence is not opened on time; feed for the livestock does not arrive consistently – and the animals are being sold or slaughtered, or left to die; water pipes for drinking or irrigation have been cut; siblings and parents are not permitted to visit; garbage trucks are unable to complete their routes; cesspits are not being drained on time. All of the above examples have been documented, with a hundred different variations, in all of these trapped communities.
A bureaucratic, official answer to the question was given last week. The regular disruption of ordinary life will henceforth be defined and delineated in a series of new army orders. They will gradually apply to tens of thousands of additional Palestinians that will soon find themselves living or working between the fence and the State of Israel. The latest army orders create a new category of Palestinian resident – “long-term resident” – a category that distinguishes between Palestinians living west of the fence and those living to its east, a new classification that will command the attentions of the swelling Israeli military bureaucracy.
Permit required from age 12
At the end of last week, residents of the villages that are trapped between the fence and the Green Line, in the Tul Karm and Qalqilyah districts, found that the army had distributed forms that bore the heading: “Israel Defense Forces, Security Directives Order (Judea and Samaria) (No. 378) 1970.” They found the forms taped to the gates of the separation fence, or on electricity poles, or on the concrete blocks of the manned army roadblocks, or tossed next to the door of the local grocery store.
They found four types of forms, all of which referred to Order No. 378: signed on one form was the name of Major General Moshe Kaplinski, the commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria, dated October 2, 2003. It is an “Announcement of the closure of territory.” In it, Kaplinski declares the closure of the seam zone; and the seam zone is “all of the territory that is bounded by the obstacle, which is marked on the (enclosed) map with a red line, in the direction of the State of Israel.” The obstacle, Kaplinski defines, consists of “fences, walls and patrol paths that are meant to prevent terror attacks and prevent the entry of assailants from Judea and Samaria into the State of Israel.”
The meaning of the closure: “A. An individual will not enter the seam zone and will not stay there; B. An individual found in the seam zone will have to leave it immediately.” This prohibition does not apply to: “1: An Israeli; 2: Anyone who has received a permit … to enter the seam zone and stay there … ” Kaplinski also defines `Israeli’: “A. A citizen of Israel; B. A resident of Israel who is listed in the Population Registry of Israel; C. Anyone entitled to immigrate to Israel according to the Law of Return.”
The non-Israelis for whom this announcement of closure of territory does not apply are defined as “long-term residents.” The order clarifies: “A. An individual who is 16 years of age or more, whose long-term place of residence … is in the seam zone, will be permitted to enter the seam zone and stay there, so long as he bears a permit in writing issued by myself or by someone acting for me, which states that his long-term place of residence is in the seam zone; B/1. An individual below 16 years of age, whose place of residence is in the seam zone, will be permitted to stay in the seam zone without a written permit … B/2. An individual below 16 years of age, whose long-term place of residence is in the seam zone, will be permitted to enter the seam zone in one of the following ways: if he has in his possession a written permit, only in the event that he is 12 years old or more; if he is accompanied by an individual whose entry is permitted; or in any other way determined by myself or someone acting on my behalf.”
At this point, Kaplinski authorizes the head of the civil administration to normalize their stay in the seam zone, and the entry and exit of non-Israelis (or those to whom the Law of Return does not apply).
The other three forms, which Palestinian residents discovered five days ago, are signed by Brigadier General Ilan Paz, the head of the civil administration, and are dated October 7, 2003. The first describes how the long-term residents are supposed to receive the “long-term resident permit.” They must personally and directly submit the application to the “authorized authority” – which is the “Israeli Civil Coordination and Liaison Office” (the same section of the civil administration that was defined by the Oslo Accords for the purpose of coordinating with representatives of the Palestinian Authority, such that private individuals would not do so directly).
The ICCLO would immediately – or in the event of an initial rejection – submit the request for examination by a special committee that will be set up for this purpose (which would request additional documents or hear the arguments of the applicant). The “authorized authority” is also authorized to renew a long-term resident permit – or not renew it, and to recognize a new long-term resident – or not recognize him. The permit would be issued to any individual (who is recognized as a long-term resident) from age 12 and above.
The second form to which Paz is signed determines that in addition to the long-term resident permit, each resident of the seam zone must carry a personal passage permit for the purpose of entering and exiting the zone. Anyone who wishes to bring in a motor vehicle must fill out a special application – “application of long-term resident for passage with vehicle.” And there is also the “application of long-term resident for bringing a new motor vehicle into the seam zone.” Entering and exiting would be through the transfer point cited in the personal permit, upon presentation of the permit.
In the third form, Paz describes the way in which Palestinians who are not long-term residents of the seam zone can enter the seam zone. The directive delineates 12 categories of potential applicants for entry permits: owner of a business in the seam zone; merchant; employee; farmer; teacher; student; employee of the Palestinian Authority; visitor; employee of an international organization; employee of a local authority or infrastructure company; member of a medical team; and “all other objectives.” Correspondingly, 12 forms for applying for the appropriate permit are enclosed. A photograph must be affixed to the application, and all pertinent details must be filled in.
A school principal who submits the application for a teacher’s entry permit must note, aside from the name and address of the school, the classroom, institution that certified the teacher, serial number of teaching certificate and the date and place of issue. A visitor must note the name and other personal details of the long-term resident who is hosting him; the farmer has to list details of the land he is farming: whether they are village lands, number of section and sub-section, type of crop grown. A merchant has to note the type of commerce, the commercial license, who issued it and where. If the applicants want to stay overnight in the seam zone, they have to submit a request for overnight stay, and note the details of his host. Applicants must explain why they want to pass through a certain “control point” and why they wish to stay overnight in the seam zone. They must submit a series of supporting documents.
Each application will be examined by a special officer in the civil administration: the head of the economic section will appraise applications from tradesmen, employees and farmers; the staff education officer will examine requests from teachers and students; the staff health officer will consider applications by member of medical crews.
The directives do not delineate the period of validity of the various permits, whether it is for one year, one month, or for each individual exit or entry. There is nothing in the wording of the directives to indicate how long the process of issuing the permits may continue or whether the civil administration and its army of officials will be committed to a clear timetable that is not merely a source of aggravation of the applicants. One may assume that as per the usual practice of the civil administration, the committees that consider the applications will be composed solely of Israelis – soldiers and civil administration officials (including residents of the settlements) – without any Palestinian representation.
The new orders are valid from the day they were signed, namely from October 2 and 7 (they reached the Palestinians on October 9 and 10). But the various permit-issuing procedures have not yet begun. ICCLO offices are now closed to the public (due to the suicide bombing attack on the ICCLO in Tul Karm on October 9). In addition, since the terrorist attack in Haifa on October 4, an especially rigid internal closure has been imposed on the Palestinians. The passage of individuals from village to city, and from village to neighboring village, has been prohibited.
But that is not what is bothering the residents of the seam zone: They are now considering how to oppose the new category that has been coerced on them, and the new regime of special permits. In the meantime, based on the new directives, thousands of Palestinians are essentially illegally residing in their homes and on their land, “between the obstacle and the State of Israel.” And Israeli soldiers have full rights to throw them out without delay.