IDF pledges to ease travel restrictions in Jordan Valley

12:00 Oct 15 2012 Jordan Valley

IDF pledges to ease travel restrictions in Jordan Valley
A barrier in the Jordan Valley. Photo by Nir Kafri

IDF pledges to ease travel restrictions in Jordan Valley

by Amira Hass for Haaretz

The Israel Defense Forces has promised to ease restrictions that prevent free passage for Palestinians to and from the Jordan Valley and separate it from the rest of the West Bank.

The Defense Ministry has informed the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which has campaigned since 2006 for freedom of movement for Palestinians to and from the Jordan Valley.

"As part of our policy for improving the quality of life of the Palestinian population of Judea and Samaria, the IDF approved a few months ago free movement between Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley, subject to a security check," the IDF Spokesman's Office said.

The old procedure has been to allow free passage through checkpoints only to vehicles whose owners are registered as residents of a Palestinian community in the Jordan Valley. The driver has also had to be the vehicle's owner.

Since 2001, entry into the Jordan Valley has been banned for Palestinians whose ID card does not list an address in the Jordan Valley, or who do not hold an entry permit (as laborers in Jewish settlements do ). The prohibition has been imposed via four checkpoints on major roads and barriers on approach roads. The travel ban also applies to goods, agricultural produce and animals.

Already in 2007, then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz promised the ACRI that the restrictions would be lifted, but they were only partially lifted. Nonresident pedestrians were allowed to pass, but due to the distances involved, this had little meaning.

In recent years, two of the checkpoints have not been permanently staffed, while entry to the Jordan Valley via the southern exit from Jericho has been permitted so that theoretically Palestinians can enter the Jordan Valley. A check by the ACRI and Haaretz found that for the past few weeks one checkpoint has been allowing free passage without the old restrictions, while another still operates under them.

The travel restrictions, including those in force since 2007, largely hinder residents of the northern Jordan Valley, who live in small agricultural communities and depend on services such as education, health and employment from Nablus, Jenin and towns overlooking the valley. Some Jordan Valley lands belong to residents of those towns and cities.

The travel-restriction procedures made food and water supply for communities not linked to the water network more difficult and expensive, as it did regarding access to medical treatment and schools. Meanwhile, residents on the western side of the checkpoints were effectively cut off from relatives and friends on the eastern side.

Particularly difficult is the plight of around 15,000 Bedouin who are not registered as Jordan Valley residents but have lived there for many years in communities lacking infrastructure.
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