PA in Bethlehem bans contact with Israeli liaisons

Palestinians ordered not to deal with the District Coordination Office, instead to go though Palestinian Liaison office.

IDF Civil Administration official, Palestinian governor 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF Civil Administration official, Palestinian governor 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In an unprecedented move, the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem Monday issued an order banning Palestinians from dealing directly with the Israel-Palestinian District Coordination Office (DCO), saying that from now on they could work only with the Palestinian Liaison Office [with Israel] to seek various services.
The order, signed by Abdel Fatah Hamayel, PA governor for Bethlehem, threatened punishment for any individual or institution dealing directly with the DCO.
On Sunday, Hamayel issued an order banning the entry of Israeli agricultural goods into Bethlehem “to protect Palestinian produce.”
The DCO offices were established as part of the 1994 Cairo Agreement between Israel and the PA. Their mission was to coordinate and monitor the movement of Palestinians into and out of, as well as within, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Palestinians who want to enter Israel for work, medical treatment or family visits are also required to apply through the DCO offices in their area.
“It is completely forbidden to deal directly with the Israeli side,” Hamayel warned. “This decision is in the context of preserving the public and national interests, and for the convenience of all Palestinians.”
The governor explained that the ban had been instituted “in light of Israel’s efforts to undermine the PA and its institutions.” He claimed that Israel was using the DCO offices to “infiltrate Palestinian society.”
Israeli defense officials said they became aware of the order through the media and that the Civil Administration had not heard of the ban through official PA channels. They said Hamayel was likely trying to solidify the PA’s institutional control in Bethlehem but that the DCO would continue to work and coordinate with Palestinian businessmen in the city.
“The DCO is used to coordinating with the PA and local residents and businessmen, and we will continue to do so,” one official said.