For the first time in almost a generation a handful of vehicles with Palestinian plates have been allowed to enter Jerusalem. The exception so far has been made for Palestinian doctors from West Bank working in Israeli hospitals.
During the first phase of the plan to loosen restrictions on Palestinian movements inside the ancient city, some 100 doctors from Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank will be allowed to enter Jerusalem in their private vehicles.
Palestinian cars have been banned from entering Israel for “security reasons” since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. It has taken 15 years for them to return.
The program began Tuesday and the first exception was made for doctors and medical personnel providing emergency treatment in Israeli hospitals, authorities announced. The chief of COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories) Yoav Mordechai approved the order for doctors who “work shifts and other jobs that require heightened responsiveness.”
The next planned step is to allow “businessmen” to move freely, Mordechai said.
In addition he announced the reduction of age requirements for married men to apply for work permits inside Israel. Now married men over the age of 22, can apply for work permits, while earlier restrictions only allowed married men over 24 with children to apply.
“This is a significant step intended to assist doctors in completing their life-saving mission,” said Brig.-Gen. David Menachem, head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria. “The success of this step will be evaluated in accordance with an assessment of the security situation,” Jerusalem Post quotes.
Palestinians for decades are subject to movement permits based on a number of agreements between Israel and the Palestinian authorities. Israel provides permits to about 30,000 Palestinians from the West Bank, according to Ma’an.
But even inside the West Bank Palestinian population of some 1.7 million people are restricted to move freely in much of the Jordan Valley and in East Jerusalem, and not permitted to enter restricted roads and other “closed areas.” World Bank estimated the total restricted area exceeds half of the total land of the West Bank.