Israel is tightening its grip on the West Bank, with new rules introduced to micromanage Palestinian society, whilst Israel’s supreme court rules to ethnically cleanse 1,000 people from their homes.
According to a new 97 page ordinance, called the ‘Procedure for Entry and Residence for Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Area’, foreign nationals will now have to acquire permits to visit the West Bank. The new rules are now in effect, as of May 20th. Gaza also requires an entry permit for those who wish to pass into it, making it nearly impossible for foreign nationals to travel there.
Palestinian critics of the new rules have argued that it is a bid to block international witnesses to Israeli crimes in the West Bank, stop population growth, and place even more rigid restrictions on Palestinians, in an already intense system of military rule. Before, foreigners could simply travel freely into the Palestinian areas of the West Bank, but now, even the husbands/wives of Palestinians will be restricted from traveling into the territory. If you marry a Palestinian from the West Bank, you will now be forced to notify the Israeli occupation authorities of your marital status, if you wish to visit them you may only be able to stay for 3-6 months in the territory and there is a good chance you are denied the permit.
This new set of rules will mean many things, one of which will be making life harder for foreign-citizens of Palestinian descent. These Palestinians who are US, UK, German, or any other, passport holders, will be forced to provide Israel with information on everyone considered to be a “first degree relative”, so that Israeli authorities can give them approval for their permits and visas. This information must be passed to the Israeli authorities prior to Palestinians entering the country. Palestinians who hold passports in foreign countries, are routinely detained by Israeli authorities at ports of entry and subject to humiliating interrogation tactics, that is if they are even allowed to enter the country at all.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Supreme Court recently issued an official decision on the issue of whether to demolish the Palestinian village of Masafer Yatta. The highest court in Israel decided that the over 1,000 residents will be subjected to an act of ethnic cleansing. The residents of Masafer Yatta attempted to argue, through the Israeli court system, that they had inhabited the land on which they currently reside prior to 1967 — after which Israel illegally occupied it. The argument, therefore, is that Israel is committing a war crime by expelling them. Masafer Yatta is located in the hills of Al-Khalil, or as Israelis call it, Hebron. The entire village will be bulldozed and the residents forcefully removed from their homes.
Illegal Israeli settlers, under the protection of Israeli military, also decided to place Israeli flags all over the Ibrahimi Mosque in al-Khalil, the second most important mosque to Muslims in Palestine. The mosque is surrounded by checkpoints and watched over by Israeli forces in military towers, the site is routinely restricted for Muslim worshippers and during the month of Ramadan Israeli settlers entered the site and desecrated it. Israel’s military have also called on 6 battalions from its reserve army, in order to help quell a Palestinian uprising.
At the same time that Israeli forces are strengthening their military occupation in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority (PA) seems to be in even greater peril. PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, allegedly signed off on a decision to expel members of the ruling Fatah party, which ran on separate lists during the last attempted election cycle. Already, a noticeable split has occurred inside the Fatah party, with loyalists to President Abbas coming to heads with dissident voices from within the movement. Israeli voices in the media and army are beginning to come out and voice their concern that the “end of the Abbas era” is just around the corner.
It could be that Israel is tightening its grip on the West Bank and giving Israeli forces a “free hand” to deal with Palestinians how they wish, by first amending the ‘open fire’ policy last December, in order to preempt the fall of the PA. The Palestinian Authority is ever deteriorating in its support and is becoming more authoritarian than ever before, a sign of what may be to come in the future. The division within the ruling Fatah movement is also adding to the pressure on the PA. If the PA falls, Israel will be forced to invade areas A and B, where the PA currently has partial power. The biggest problem for Israel is, that without PA backing, it will lose a large portion of its intelligence sources and will struggle to keep a hold of the West Bank. This is why the crackdowns today could well be preemptive.