May 03 2016

‘bridging’ dilemma

Published by at 10:46 am under Articles,Jordan

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By Daoud Kuttab

One issue subject to intense discussions is the “bridge” policy.  That is, King Hussein Bridge, which connects Palestine to Jordan and, by extension, to the rest of the world.

The bridge policy is unknown and undeclared. The main reason is that the bridge is not an international crossing point. 

While Jordan signed a peace treaty with Israel, it does not consider this a recognised border point, but it is also unable to call it an official border point with Palestine because the Israeli army is still the de facto power on the western part of the bridge.

The fact that the West Bank was Jordanian territory before 1967 and Jordan has not yet constitutionally ceded the West Bank (King Hussein did sever administrative ties with it in 1989) adds to the reasons the bridge is not an international border yet.

But regardless of legal definitions, some 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and holding passports issued by the Palestinian government have no possibility to travel after Israel blocked their ability to use the Lod (Ben Gurion) Airport other than the King Hussein Bridge.

For some time after the outbreak of the second Intifada, in 2000, every Palestinian wanting to travel across needed to get permission to enter issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Interior.

A Jordanian citizen would need to apply for permission, which, once granted for the small fee of JD10, enabled him/her to enter Jordan or use Jordan to travel. After some time this requirement was dropped and the fee stayed.

However, while the vast majority of West Bank Palestinians are able to enter Jordan any time they wish (provided the Israelis allow them to exit) so long as they pay this small visa entry fee, this ease of travel is not granted Palestinians who were born in Gaza.

Even though Palestinians have the same Ramallah-issued passports, and the Oslo Accords, by which the Palestinian Authority was created, stipulate clearly that West Bank and Gaza are one unit and that free access is to be allowed, Jordan has different policies for Gazans.

Any Palestinian born in Gaza or born to a parent from Gaza (mother or father) is considered by Jordan a Gazan Palestinian and, therefore, has to use a blue bridge card (unlike West Bank Palestinians that are granted green bridge cards).

Gaza Palestinians, regardless of whether they live in Gaza or in the West Bank, must apply for permission from the Ministry of Interior by sending an application via a special express company, and wait for an answer using electronic approval.

Gazans living in Gaza and unable to use the Rafah crossing point need Jordan’s approval before applying for permission from Israel to use its territory to get to the King Hussein Bridge.

For Palestinians from Gaza who have over the years, for career or family reasons, moved to the West Bank, the problem has always been to get the Israelis to accept their change of residency.

Once they were recognised as residents of the West Bank, the move even to visit Gaza became much more difficult and, theoretically, the chance to travel outside of Palestine became easier.

Until the beginning of 2016 and the bridge policy apparently starting applying a new directive.

Since the beginning of this year, the applications by Gazans, whether residing in Gaza or the West Bank, to get what used to be an automatic (albeit delayed) approval stopped.

Students, professionals, family members, businessmen planning work or family visits to Jordan or abroad were suddenly denied approval.

The rejection was across the board and tens of thousands of Palestinians living in the West Bank and unable to go to Gaza have since found themselves imprisoned in the West Bank because of this undeclared Jordanian policy.

Palestinian officials say they are pursuing the problem, but declare that Jordan is a sovereign country that has the prerogative to decides on issues such as who is allowed in.

It is estimated that about 50,000 mostly career oriented (white collar) individuals are affected by this policy in the West Bank.

Several of these individuals have recently created a movement that seeks to fight these restrictions both by encouraging the Palestinian government to defend its passport holders against discrimination but also attempting to make Jordan change this policy that has effectively cut off a large segment of people from the rest of the world, as well as depriving them of the possibility to come to Jordan for work, family visits or tourism.


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