Israel’s Civil Administration issues 101 different types of permits to govern the movement of Palestinians, whether within the West Bank, between the West Bank and Israel or beyond the borders of the state, according to an agency document of which Haaretz obtained a copy.
The most common permits are those allowing Palestinians to work in Israel, or in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Over the decades, however, the permit regimen has grown into a vast, triple-digit bureaucracy.
There are separate permits for worshipers who attend Friday prayers on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and for clerics working at the site; for unspecified clergy and for church employees. Medical permits differentiate between physicians and ambulance drivers, and between “medical emergency staff” and “medical staff in the seam zone,” meaning the border between Israel and the West Bank. There is a permit for escorting a patient in an ambulance and one for simply escorting a patient.
There are separate permits for traveling to a wedding in the West Bank or traveling to a wedding in Israel, and also for going to Israel for a funeral, a work meeting, or a court hearing.
The separation fence gave rise to an entirely new category of permits, for farmers cut off from their fields. Thus, for instance, there is a permit for a “farmer in the seam zone,” not to be confused with the permit for a “permanent farmer in the seam zone.”
Human rights organizations have challenged the permit regime on various grounds.
According to a report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, international agencies operating in the West Bank waste an estimated 20 percent of their working days on permits from the Civil Administration – applying for them, renewing them and sorting out problems.
The checkpoint-monitoring organization Machsom Watch claims that the Shin Bet security service uses the permit regime to recruit informers. Palestinians whose permit requests are rejected “for security reasons” are often invited to meetings with Shin Bet agents, who then offer “assistance” in obtaining the desired permits in exchange for information.
Guy Inbar, spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said in response that the Civil Administration is aware of the issues raised in the article and intends to evaluate them in the coming year as part of its streamlining program.