Israel Limits West Bank Farmers’ Access to Lands Near Green Line

Israel has tightened its restrictions on Palestinian farmers entering the area between the separation fence and Israeli territory.

Until now, Palestinians who own land in this area have been able to acquire agricultural entry permits for the broad purpose of “maintaining their connection to the land.” But under new regulations issued by Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank, the purpose of these permits has been narrowed, and they will also only be good for a certain number of entries.

The new purpose is defined as “enabling agricultural land to be worked based on agricultural needs derived from the size of the plot and the type of produce, while maintaining the connection to these lands.”

Moreover, the number of times a farmer can access his lands will be capped according to the crops grown there. For instance, the maximum number of entries is 40 times a year for olives, 50 times for figs, 30 for barley and 220 for tomatoes or strawberries.

If a farmer has exhausted his entry quota, he must apply for a new permit, which will be granted only if he can prove that he was unable to finish his agricultural work within the visits allotted him. This creates a new bureaucratic hurdle for Palestinian farmers.

The area between the separation fence and Israel comprises 140,000 dunams, most of which is Palestinian agricultural land. There are gates in the fence to allow the farmers to access their land, but they are open only for a few hours a day, and Palestinians must have an entry permit to pass through them. They must also obtain permits for any workers they hire to tend their land.

Ahmed al-Abadi, 54, of Tura al-Gharbiya in the northern West Bank, recently received one of the new, limited permits, but refused to accept it. Fifteen of the 42 dunams of land that he owns lie between the separation fence and Israel.