Splitting the West Bank

1 Jan 2011

The restrictions on movement that Israel has imposed on Palestinians in the West Bank have split the area into six geographical areas: North, Center, South, the Jordan Valley and northern Dead Sea, the enclaves resulting from the Separation Barrier, and East Jerusalem. The restrictions have made traveling from one section to another an exceptional occurrence, subject to various conditions and proof of justification for the journey. Almost every trip in the West Bank entails a great loss of time, much uncertainty, friction with soldiers, and often substantial additional expense.

The splitting of the West Bank is enforced by an integrated use of the various means of control in a way that channels Palestinian vehicles and pedestrians to a small number of checkpoints, through which they must pass to get from area to area, provided they meet the conditions and restrictions that vary from checkpoint to checkpoint and from one time to another. The main checkpoints are the following:

  • The Za'tara (Tapuach) Checkpoint controls, almost completely, movement between the North and Central area. It serves as a bottleneck and as the main means of enforcing restrictions on the movement of males age 16-35 traveling from the north to the south;

  • The "Container" Checkpoint controls, almost completely, movement between the South and Central sections. Long delays of up to an hour are common, especially at peak times;

  • The Tayasir, Hamra, Gittit, and Yitav checkpoints control movement to and from the Jordan Valley. In May 2005, Israel instituted a sweeping prohibition on Palestinian movement into the Jordan Valley, except for persons with a Jordan Valley address in their identity card and persons with special permits. In April 2007, the Defense Ministry announced cancellation of the sweeping prohibition on entry. However, B'Tselem found that the removal of the prohibition related only to pedestrians and persons traveling on public transportation, which itself requires a permit, and that the decision was implemented only at the Tayasir and Hamra checkpoints;

  • The Almog Checkpoint is located at the Beit Ha'arava intersection and controls movement to and from the northern Dead Sea. In recent years, Palestinians have not been allowed to enter this area unless they have permits to work in the nearby settlements or permits to enter Israel. Since May 2007, Palestinians with permits to enter Israel have not been allowed to cross. Testimonies indicate that the reason for setting up the checkpoint is, apparently, the desire to restrict use of the beaches in the area to Israelis;

  • Gates in the Separation Barrier control movement between the enclaves in the “seam zone” and the rest of the West Bank, with only residents of the enclaves and persons holding special entry permits being permitted to cross. Of the 38 gates designated for Palestinian use, only six are open daily from between 12 to 24 hours without interruption. The barrier crossings designated for Israelis traveling to and from the West Bank, however, are operated around the clock;

  • Movement between East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank is channeled through 12 checkpoints set up along the Separation Barrier. Palestinian residents of the West Bank who do not have Israeli identity cards, but have permits to enter Israel, may use only four of the checkpoints: Qalandia, Gilo, Shu'afat refugee camp, and Olives. The remaining eight checkpoints are intended for use by settlers and residents of Israel, including Palestinians living in East Jerusalem.

In addition to the restrictions on movement from area to area, Israel also severely restricts movement within each area by splitting them up into subsections, and by controlling and limiting movement between them. For example, in the North section, Israel separates the Nablus area, which is under siege, from the nearby villages, and also from the other northern districts - Jenin, Tubas, and Tulkarm. In the Central section, the restrictions on movement create two principal subsections, around Salfit and Ramallah. Not only do the restrictions separate nearby villages from these towns, they also detach villagers from their farmland.

In addition to the enclaves that have been created between the Separation Barrier and the Green Line, it is expected that there will be 13 internal enclaves, in which almost 240,000 Palestinians will live, in several dozen villages. These enclaves, comprised of villages and farmland, result from the winding route of the Separation Barrier, or from the meeting of the barrier and another physical obstruction, such as a forbidden road. Travel to and from the enclaves is achieved through one or two points that remained open, or through gates in the barrier.