Closure

Published: 
1 Jan 2014

Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel's military commanders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip issued orders proclaiming these areas to be closed military areas. In 1972, general exit orders were issued. These orders allowed residents of the Occupied Territories to leave freely, enter Israel and East Jerusalem, and pass between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Residents of the Occupied Territories were not allowed to stay in Israel and East Jerusalem between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

In June 1989, for the first time, Israel restricted these general exit permits. In the Gaza Strip, Israel imposed a magnetic-card system whereby only those with such a card were allowed to leave the Strip. The authorities did not issue magnetic cards to released prisoners, former administrative detainees, or even Palestinians who had been detained and released without charges being filed against them. In the West Bank, green, rather than orange, identity cards were issued to Palestinians whom Israel prohibited from leaving the Occupied Territories.

In January 1991, during the Gulf War, Israel changed the policy it had implemented since it first occupied the Occupied Territories in 1967. The general exit permits of 1972 were revoked, and a new policy was implemented. Under the new policy, each resident of the Occupied Territories who desired to enter Israel was required to have a personal exit permit. The effect of the revocation of the general exit permit on residents of the Occupied Territories was not immediate. At first, Israel issued many permits for relatively long periods, and except for days in which a total closure on the Occupied Territories was imposed, most Palestinians could continue to enter Israel routinely. Gradually, however, Israel's permit policy became more and more strict. Thus, beginning in 1991, the number of residents of the Occupied Territories entering Israel and East Jerusalem steadily decreased.

The new policy created a situation in which the Occupied Territories were divided into three areas, with passage between them requiring a permit from the Israeli authorities: the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. Movement within the West Bank was also limited inasmuch as the main road between the southern and northern areas of the West Bank passes through Jerusalem, into which entry was prohibited.

Revocation of the general exit permit in 1991 marked the beginning of the permanent closure policy. This policy reached its apex two years later, in March 1993, following the killing of nine Israeli civilians and six security forces' personnel by Palestinian residents of the Occupied Territories. As a result of this incident, Israel imposed an overall closure on the Occupied Territories "until further notice." Israel set up checkpoints to enforce this closure. Some checkpoints were set up along the Green Line which separates Israel from the West Bank. Others were set up between the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Still others were set up within the Occupied Territories. Approvals to enter Israel and East Jerusalem were granted sparingly and according to criteria unknown to Palestinians.

The Oslo Accords and the geo-political changes that followed had almost no effect on these restrictions. The severity of the closure would change as circumstances changed. For example, after incidents of Palestinian violence against Israelis, authorities would impose a total closure during which no exit permits were granted except in exceptional cases. Israel also often imposed a total closure on the Occupied Territories during Israeli holidays, and, at times, Israel imposed internal closures on specific towns and villages in the West Bank.

With the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada, Israel imposed a comprehensive closure on the Occupied Territories. For a few months, Israel almost completely prohibited Palestinians from entering Israel and from traveling between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel then allowed a limited number of workers from the Occupied Territories to return to work in Israel and enabled, with severe restrictions, Palestinians to enter Israel for medical treatment, trade, and for other needs. This situation remains. However, from time to time, following acts of violence and during Israeli holidays, Israel places a comprehensive closure on the Occupied Territories and cancels entry permits.