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27.10.2020

Following HaMoked’s petition: the military cancels the quota set on the number of annual entries to Seam Zone farmlands

For over 16 years now, the Israeli military has been enforcing, on alleged security grounds, a draconian permit regime in parts of the West Bank it dubs the “Seam Zone”. These are the lands that are trapped between the Green Line and the Separation Wall, built inside the West Bank, contrary to international law. Palestinians who wish to cultivate their farmlands lying in these areas must obtain in advance a military permit. Requests for permits to enter and stay in the Seam Zone are submitted and processed according to a convoluted set of regulations, which set out numerous, restrictive conditions and criteria, mostly unconnected to security.

Since 2018, HaMoked has seen a significant rise in the number of agriculture-related permit requests denied by the military on the perplexing claim of a “tiny plot”, i.e. under 330 m², which allegedly does not require cultivation. Thus the military succeeds in further reducing the number of people who receive access to their agricultural lands, and increasing the area of uncultivated land inside the Seam Zone – while the owners have lost any ability to benefit from their lands. HaMoked’s petition to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) challenging this matter has been ongoing since late 2018. In September 2019, the military introduced a new restriction, limiting the number of days farmers could access their lands each year, depending on the type of crops they grow (e.g., an olive grower would receive a permit with a quota allowing them to reach their grove only 40 days a year). On February 27, 2020, HaMoked amended its “tiny plot” petition to include the demand to cancel this new restriction.

At the conclusion of a July 2020 hearing on the petition, the HCJ directed the state to submit an updating notice, clarifying the scope of permits issued annually for farming purposes since April 2011 and how they were used. This, in order to examine HaMoked’s claim about a significant drop in the access the military allows to Seam Zone farmlands, as well as the state’s claim that its policy stemmed from widespread abuse of such permits for the purpose of entering Israel illegally.

On October 25, 2020, the state submitted its updating notice, announcing, among other things that the limited-entries permit would be cancelled and that the military would soon publish a new set of regulations reflecting this change. In this context, the state now claimed, for the for time, that the limited-entries permit was planned as a pilot program, and that in September 2020, a year after it was introduced, the military decided to cancel it because it had “failed to achieve its goals”. This ends the most restrictive policy imposed on Seam Zone farmers to date, a source of great hardship with threatened farming and agricultural traditions in these areas.

HaMoked is now preparing its response to the state’s notice, addressing the various data presented.
mail@hamoked.org.il (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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