Of the 100 types of permits controlling the movement of Palestinians throughout the West Bank or exiting it, about 15 regard only the entry into the seam zone, among them: a permit for a permanent resident in the seam zone (namely, allowing him/her to sleep at home); a permit for a new resident; permits for farming needs; permits for all kinds of personal needs; permits for all kinds of employment and trade; and more and more. In short, a huge maze where one can only lose one’s way.
In addition to the permits there are special restrictions and demands, for example:
- A holder of a permit for a certain checkpoint for a certain purpose, may not enter the seam zone with the same permit through another checkpoint. There are cases of 55-year olds and older who are permitted to cross into Israel without permits, but are not issued a permit to enter their own lands in the seam zone.
- In order to be issued a permit to work one’s land, the owner must fill out long forms and attach to every application an updated confirmation that he is indeed the owner of the land. Proving ownership of land in the West Bank is complicated because fields passing from one generation to another were not always registered under the names of all the beneficiaries.
- Only if the area is large enough, meeting criteria set by the army, may a farmer request a permit for family members or hired help. If the area is not large enough, family members may not reach their olive grove to help their father who is often old and weak, and not enjoy the family gathering outdoors, in their own olive grove.
- One’s chances to be issued a permit are lessening consistently. Until a few years ago, nearly 70% of the applications were approved. Nowadays the Civil Administration approves less than 50%. In 2017 demands were made stricter, and numerous villages in the central part of the West Bank were on strike for months. They requested us to join meetings with the Civil Administration and we participated in the negotiations which ended in compromise.
- However, in 2019 a new procedure file was publicized, restricting Palestinians’ access to their lands even further. A quota of entries for permit-holding farmers was set, and for the first time an ‘annual number of entries’ was established – 40 days a year. The former orders stipulated only that permit holders are subject only to the opening and closing times of the relevant agricultural gates.
Following a petition to the Supreme Court, this last procedure was annulled and another achievement noted: the army declared it would issue permits for holders of the past year without individual re-application.
- New regulations from 2019 stipulate that the purpose of the permit to access land is:
‘to enable the tending of farmland, according to the need derived from the size of the plot and kind of crop, while maintaining the link to the land’.
Thus the purpose, which in the past was defined in general as ‘retaining the link to the land’– supposedly granting permits to family members of landowners to hold a family gathering in the field or grove, without having to prove a need for farm work.
Through this twist, there is now a legal case for preventing access to families, prevention that has in fact been enforced for years.