Israel controls all West Bank entrance and exit points, so any departure from the West Bank requires Israeli approval. As Israeli authorities largely deny Palestinians international travel via its seaports or the Ben Gurion International Airport, the only avenue available to them for travel abroad is the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing, located about 5 kilometers east of Jericho. According to figures by the Palestinian Border and Crossing Authority, 809,559 Palestinians used the Allenby Bridge Crossing in 2015, and 907,825 in 2016.
Israel uses its control over the crossing to deny many West Bank residents travel abroad, keeping them confined to the West Bank for years on end by way of an administrative decision, without any judicial review or explanation. In cases in which officials inform Palestinians who have reached the Allenby Bridge Crossing they cannot go through and must instead return home, they do not inform the travelers which authority decided on the travel ban or how it can be appealed. Sometimes no explanation whatsoever is given for the refusal; at other times, it is maintained that the travel ban was imposed for “security reasons.” Some travelers denied permission to exit have been referred to the Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO) or the Israel Security Agency (ISA) for an explanation. Testimonies given to B’Tselem indicate that often a single arrest in a person’s past is sufficient to merit a travel ban that would preclude travel outside the West Bank for many years. In addition, in some cases, the ISA uses the travel ban to its advantage in pressuring Palestinians to collaborate with Israel.
In most cases, Palestinians traveling abroad do not know if they will actually manage to do so until they reach Allenby Bridge. If Israel has placed them under a ban, they find out only then. While the Civil Administration does have a process in place ostensibly allowing West Bank residents to find out whether they are under a ban prior to travel, many residents are completely unaware of this option. They prepare for the trip, say goodbye to friends and relatives, arrive at the crossing with luggage in hand, and only then, find out it was all for nothing.
According to B’tselem “these travel bans constitute a severe, open-ended sanction. The fact that they are imposed in an undisclosed process without any judicial review further intensifies their impact. This policy directly harms thousands of Palestinians to whom Israel denies travel abroad for no reason, or based on unfounded and unjustifiable arguments, such as that the person has spent time in jail. It also hurts many others who, to begin with, do not even attempt international travel – be it for work or study, visiting family or vacationing. The travel ban policy clearly illustrates Israel’s full control over the lives of all West Bank residents, and their inability to plan and run their lives.”