After 180,000 Palestinians enter Israel for holiday
PA daily: Entry permits intended to hurt Palestinian economy
Independent Al-Quds: Encourage more contact
by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook
Israel's decision to allow 180,000 Palestinians to enter Israel for the Muslim holiday of Eid El-Fitr has drawn different responses in the Palestinian Authority. While the official PA daily newspaper said that the move was intended to hurt the Palestinian economy, the independent Al-Quds argued that more contact should be encouraged.
Since the Palestinian Authority terror campaign (Intifada, 2000-2005), in which more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered, mostly by suicide bombings, Israel has restricted Palestinian entry into Israel. The Palestinian Authority has condemned this policy.
But due to the improved security situation, Israel granted increased access, and 180,000 Palestinians entered Israel for the Muslim holiday in late August. Rather than expressing appreciation for the increased freedom of movement, the official PA daily newspaper quoted sources that accused Israel of granting the entry permits to deliberately hurt the Palestinian economy, because Palestinians would spend their holiday money in Israel instead of in the PA.
The article in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said that Israel "profited economically and enhanced its image in the press and internationally, as a state enjoying security and tranquility and easing [restrictions] on the [Palestinian] residents." [Aug. 23, 2012]
The independent daily Al-Quds, however, questioned the negative reaction: "If the Israeli decision had entailed the slightest bit of a security risk, Israel would not have agreed to place itself in danger merely in order to acquire what the residents of the West Bank might spend during their visit to Jerusalem and Israel."
The Al-Quds article did see ulterior motives in Israel's actions - to have direct contacts between Palestinians and Israelis in order "to convince Palestinian citizens that the Palestinian Authority is useless." The op-ed argued that this was also positive for Palestinians, and that more contact should be encouraged "to permit our people, on both sides of the fence, to make contact and to mingle in a natural manner, since this is preferable to living in a great prison that is called the West Bank - or, more precisely, the Palestinian Authority areas." [Aug. 26, 2012]
The following is the article in the PA daily:
Headline: "Israeli merchants exploited the situation - Jaffa and Tel Aviv beaches were packed with bathers from the West Bank, while the recreational sites and parks in the West Bank longed for the good old days"
"Owners of [Palestinian] recreational sites and public parks did not anticipate the unprecedented losses during the Eid El-Fitr holiday caused by the departure of thousands of people to vacation and enjoy themselves in [Israeli] cities across the Green Line (i.e., 1949-1967 armistice line). This made them wonder about the Israeli authorities' motives for granting [Palestinian] citizens more than 180,000 permits to visit inside the Green Line. They said they believed that Israel had thereby achieved two main goals: First, it profited economically, and [second] it enhanced its image in the press and internationally, as a state enjoying security and tranquility and easing [restrictions] on the [Palestinian] residents... Samir Ibrahim (24), from El-Bireh, noted that [Israeli] shop-owners had exploited the presence of West Bank residents at this [Jaffa] beach, and raised their prices."
[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Aug. 23, 2012]
The following is the op-ed in the independent paper Al-Quds:
"I can't understand why some people were so infuriated by Israel's granting permits to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to visit Jerusalem and Israel, and about the flow of tens of thousands of Palestinians, during the holiday, to the Jaffa beach and other Palestinian beaches... As someone who is involved in what is happening on the Israeli scene, I do not believe that there is someone [in Israel] who wanted to export the Israeli economic crisis to the Palestinian side. If the Israeli decision had entailed the slightest bit of a security risk, Israel would not have agreed to place itself in danger merely in order to acquire what the residents of the West Bank might spend during their visit to Jerusalem and Israel... What does require discussion is the suggestion that Israel's goal was to strengthen the Civil Administration Authority and to create a direct connection with Palestinian citizens, because of the continued lack of political consensus between itself and the Palestinian Authority, and the refusal of the latter to return to negotiations. The goal was to convince Palestinian citizens that the Palestinian Authority is useless...
To date, the political process has failed, there is no political solution on the horizon, the rift between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is growing stronger, and there are increasing numbers of Palestinians, on both sides [West Bank and Gaza], calling for steps that will perpetuate the rift and pave the way for the establishment of two [Palestinian] entities, and not two Palestinian states, in the West Bank and in Gaza. Given this situation, it would be easy for Israel to strengthen the process of consolidating a political entity in Gaza, and crushing the opportunity to establish an independent entity in the West Bank. If this is the case, I believe that once again it is necessary to remove all barriers between the West Bank and Israel, and to permit our people, on both sides of the fence, to make contact and to mingle in a natural manner, since this is preferable to living in a great prison that is called the West Bank - or, more precisely, the Palestinian Authority areas."
[Al-Quds, Aug. 26, 2012]