Israel is usually pretty vigilant about preventing unauthorized infiltration of its borders. But over the weekend, tens of thousands of Palestinians casually walked into Israel-proper, and no one did a thing to stop it.
The Palestinian Authority-controlled territories have been under lockdown amid a rise in coronavirus infections. Israelis endured such a situation a few months ago, so can empathize with desperate Palestinians seeking a bit of reprieve.
Late last week a rumor began to spread on social media that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had opened several crossings along the West Bank security fence and were allowing Palestinians to freely enter Israel, or at least were turning a blind eye. Typically, Palestinians require a special permit to cross into Israel-proper.
It didn’t take long before tens of thousands of Palestinians, including entire families, were streaming to these crossing points, where they were astonished to find that the rumors were true. The crossings were completely opened. No one was being checked. More than that, buses were waiting on the Israeli side to take the quarantine-weary Palestinians to beaches or other tourist destinations like Jaffa and Acre.
Speaking to Israel’s Channel 12 News, a Palestinian source said at the weekend, “Everyone is over there with you right now.”
According to the Palestinians, Israel permitted the mass infiltration so that these weekend visitors would pump more money into Israel’s hard-hit tourism industry. It should also be noted that Israel regularly permits more limited infiltrations of Palestinian workers and visitors as a means of “releasing pressure” from the volatile West Bank, and thus lessening the chance of another terrorist uprising.
Whatever the reason, the influx of Palestinian visitors to Israel’s beaches this weekend was reminiscent of the years prior to the First Intifada and the subsequent “Oslo Accords,” when there was no Palestinian Authority (read: PLO) and Israelis and Palestinians routinely mingled in one another’s “territories.”