Friday, September 22, 2017

Leaked diplomatic complains of repeated detention of US diplomats at Jalamehís checkpoint


By Henrique Dores - April 07, 2013
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [checkpoints] [US personnel] [freedom of movement]

Photo by Peace Seaker.

 On September 1 2011, Wikileaks published for the first time the original version of a diplomatic cable sent by the US General Consulate to the Secretary of State in Washington on October 30 2009.

The diplomatic message, unclassified but containing sensitive information, grieves that while new Government of Israel (GOI) personnel at the Jalameh crossing, north of Jenin in the West Bank, claim to be applying long-established standard procedures, their actions are preventing US Government personnel from using the crossing to exit the West Bank. According to the leaked cable, on three different occasions, since October 14 2009, U.S. diplomats have been detained at Jalameh on the basis of requirements not applied at any other checkpoint in the West Bank.

The document goes on describing the three episodes where the US diplomatic personnel were demanded to hand their diplomatic passports and locally employed staff to exit the vehicle for screening. After contacting Jerusalem and the Tel Aviv Regional Security Officers, the diplomatic personnel were instructed to adhere to their normal procedures, which include a closed doors and windows policy. The impasse took several hours, until finally the diplomatic personnel were authorized to leave the checkpoint and use an alternative route.

As mentioned in the leaked cable, despite the Consulate of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Embassy intensively lobbying GOI security contacts for a solution, the current GOI position would require unacceptable compromises on the US’s diplomatic security procedures for crossing West Bank checkpoints.

In the areas where Israel maintains a tangible control on Palestinian movement, the restrictions create a situation of constant uncertainty for Palestinians regarding their ability to carry out their most basic daily routines

Moreover, the US representation points out that the unavailability of the Jalameh crossing not only makes Jenin a farther-away, harder-to-reach destination for US’s Government personnel, and obstructs the ability to support high-priority initiatives in security, rule of law, and economic development in the northern West Bank, but that it also has significant implications for the ability to exit the West Bank quickly, should an emergency situation arise.

The supreme irony of the episodes described in the leaked cable, resides in the fact that the Jalameh checkpoint had just been upgraded with American tax-payers money, and although President Obama and his delegation haven’t experienced any difficulties in moving around Palestine during his visit last month, the movement restrictions imposed by Israel have always been a central cause of many problems in Palestine.

The problems caused by movement restrictions

The matrix of movement restrictions, barriers and layers of jurisdiction throughout the West Bank has turned the small sections of Area A, supposedly under Palestinian Authority civil and security control, into isolated points in the Israeli web. Moving from one city to another, if even possible on that particular day, could take several hours.

On the other hand, illegal Israeli settlements are properly connected with each other and Israel, through an extensive network of highways and bypass roads, allowing settlers to drive to work in Israel and back without even seeing a Palestinian.

Movement restriction can take many forms. From destroyed roads or roadblocks, to earth mounds or the more common checkpoints, Israel uses several methods to restrict the movement of Palestinians.

According to B’Tselem, in 2009, Israel reduced the number of checkpoints and obstructions in the West Bank, but as of February 2012, B'Tselem still counted 98 checkpoints in the West Bank, including 16 military posts in the area of Hebron in which Israeli settlements have been established (H-2), 41 positions serving as the last checkpoint before entry into Israel, although most are located a few kilometers east of the Green Line or the entrance to Jerusalem, and four checkpoints restricting access for Palestinians to the Jordan Valley – Tayasir, Hamra, Ma’ale Efrayim and Yitav.

In addition, according to data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), between January and May 2012 there were also 450 unmanned physical barriers – mounds of dirt, concrete blocks, gates, and road segments closed to Palestinian traffic. Furthermore, in May 2012 some 256 temporary checkpoints, commonly known as 'flying checkpoints’, were erected in the West Bank for a few hours at a time, without permanent infrastructure at those locations.

Moreover, along the route of the Apartheid wall there are— since of late 2011— 60 agricultural gates allowing Palestinians very limited access to areas west of the barrier, defined as closed military zones.

The consequences of movement restrictions are of different nature. In the areas where Israel maintains a tangible control on Palestinian movement, the restrictions create a situation of constant uncertainty for Palestinians regarding their ability to carry out their most basic daily routines, such as going to work or school in the nearby town, marketing farm produce, accessing health care or simply visiting relatives.

To sum up, Israel continues to prevent Palestinians from traveling between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in almost all cases, and makes it very difficult for West Bank Palestinians to enter Israel or to travel abroad.

The economic impact caused by movement restrictions is also enormous. According to the World Bank, the decline of Palestinian economy in the last decade is primarily caused by the economic restrictions and the prolonged system of closures imposed by Israel.

Amidst the several examples of fragmentation of the local Palestinian economy, one can find the economic separation between the West Bank and Gaza, the severe limitations on economical interaction not only with Israel but also with East Jerusalem, the lack of access to markets for vendors of perishable products, and the decline of investment due to uncertainty and inefficiency, as the major economical shortcomings caused by the movement restrictions.

But what are then the reasons for the existence of movement restrictions? The prompt answer would be that they exist to ensure the safety and security of Israel and its citizens. However, since the end of the Second Intifada, Palestinian factions in the West Bank have renounced violence. Furthermore, the security forces of the Palestinian Authority have been working closely with those from Israel, even having been praised by the government of the latter.

Despite all of this, the number of checkpoints and other movement restrictions in the West Bank is still overwhelming, and the fact that even diplomatic personnel (let alone common Palestinians) has been having difficulties crossing the checkpoints of the self proclaimed only democracy in the Middle East, illustrates the picture of the problems caused by these policies.




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