Cablegate: Travel Restrictions for Palestinians Crossing

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Travel Restrictions for Palestinians Crossing
Jordanian border-Feeding Public Concern Over a Possible


1. Tales of West Bank Palestinians stuck at the Jericho
border crossing have been prominent in conversations
throughout Jordan in recent weeks. Rumors and anecdotal
reports of thousands stranded - some for over a week -
waiting either for Israel to lift the curfew so they can
return to their villages, or for Jordan to admit them, have
triggered conflicting emotions for many here, focused
largely on the question of whether Israel intends to
engineer a large-scale transfer of Palestinians, and how the
Jordanian Government should respond. End Summary.

Palestinian border crossing: Old New Problem

2. Jordanian officials are evidently nervous about the
image solidifying in the public imagination of Palestinians
suffering at the hands of insensitive Jordanian border
officials, and have issued a statement reiterating Jordan's
open bridge policy. Minister of State for Political Affairs
Mohammed Adwan stated on July 10; "The open bridges policy
remains our national strategy to help strengthen the
steadfastness of the Palestinians." While numerous press
reports claim the Jordan has limited the number of
Palestinians allowed to enter the country to 350 a day 9
(from 3000 in the past), officials deny taking such measures
and claim that the number admitted on a daily basis is
around 1000. Priority is given to medical cases and the
rest are investigated for "precautionary measures" to make
sure that Palestinians who visit Jordan will return to the
West Bank. The Minister of Interior has announced publicly
"We will not accept any transfer of Palestinians into
Jordan." Here in Jordan, there is a strong consensus among
both Palestinians and Jordanians that West Bank Palestinians
would remain on their lands and not repeat the tragedy of
prior refugee flows in 1948 and 1967. Both Palestinians and
Jordanians fear that Sharon's ultimate agenda is the
wholesale transfer of West Bank Palestinians to Jordan.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
What it means for Palestinians: Vignettes of opinions
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. "This is an old new problem" according to Fawzi Samhouri,
Director of Jordan Society for Citizen Rights, a prominent
human rights group. The problem started last year when the
Jordanian Ministry of Interior issued new procedures to
Palestinians wishing to visit Jordan. The procedures limited
the reasons for travel to humanitarian reasons. After a rush
of criticism, debate died. Now, however, "there is a feeling
that Israel wants to push the Palestinians out, and there
are rumors of transfer. . .This is making Jordanians very

4. Dr. Nitham Assaf of the Amman Center for Human Rights
believes that talk of a transfer is irresponsible-on the
part of the government or the chattering classes: "From a
human rights perspective, Jordan should be facilitating
entry and not creating additional barriers." He feels that
Jordan is using people's fear of transfer to suppress
freedom of movement. "If transfer is a real threat, then why
not close the borders. If Jordan wants to support the
steadfastness of the Palestinians, then they should allow
them entry to regain their strength in order to go back and
stand strong in the face of the occupation." This to him
looks like "a war from two sides on one people."

5. For another Jordanian intellectual, the truth of the
matter remains unclear. The Arab media, he believes is
acting irresponsibly by trafficking in rumors and blame. He
states that no one knows the truth, "all we know for a fact
is that there are people stuck on the border, Jordan blames
Israel and vice versa." On the one hand Jordanian officials
carefully state that the number of arrivals equals that of
the departures, and on the other they issue contradictory
statements about "precautionary measures" to stop a
transfer. The same contact opined that "it is too premature
to create havoc - as no one knows the real story."

--------------------------------------------- --
And It All Comes Down to the Transfer Questions
--------------------------------------------- --

6. Many Embassy contacts say that Jordan should open its
gates as long as the number of arrivals equals the number of
departures. One Palestinian contact said "90 percent of
those who leave, do so for pressing medical needs, education
for their children, or transit via Jordan, 10 percent leave
for pleasure." Jordanians of Palestinian origin have family
ties and would like to welcome their relatives, however many
trans-Jordanians have expressed fear that history will
repeat itself. One trans-Jordanian stated "In 1948 we had
refugees running from the occupation, in 1967 we had a flood
of humanitarian refugees, and in 1991 we had returnees who
were expelled from the Gulf, and now what? Transfer?"

7. A Jordanian intellectual explained what all this means to
him: "This is part of the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank
that has gone on since 1967." He believes that only severe
hardship cases should be allowed to leave. On the same
issue, a Jordanian woman feels torn: "If my cousin from the
West Bank wants desperately to visit me, then I can't say
no, but I know in the larger picture, everyone has a cousin!
If everyone acted on their emotion, then we let Sharon win."


8. Jordanians from all walks of life fear that the long-term
plans of Israel threaten Jordanian and Palestinian
identities. Transfer is on every ones mind.


© Scoop Media

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