The explicit prohibition regarding entry to the Jordan Valley by all Palestinians except a small minority is relatively new. It has taken shape slowly in the course of the past five years. It has involved not a single order published by the media, but rather a series of cumulative prohibitions, now at this roadblock, later at another and another and yet another. The constraints on Palestinian farmers' freedom to market their produce directly and to nearby Israeli dealers are also new, dating from October-November 2005. Both types of prohibition constitute but the most recent manifestations of the policy practiced by Israel even during the Oslo years - ostensibly the peace negotiation years.
Everything can be interpreted as "legitimate security measures": to protect Israelis traveling on the main road, to defend the settlers, facilitate the task of the soldiers, and place as many filters as possible in the way of arms smugglers. But the security rationale persuades only those (sadly, most Israelis) who insist on ignoring a series of dispossessing measures invoked by a succession of Israeli governments in the Jordan Valley and against Palestinians. These include construction of colonies based on depriving Palestinians of their water resources and taking control over their lands; turning some 500 square kilometers of the valley into military training grounds and live-fire zones, thereby supplying an excellent "humane" excuse for actively removing people from about a third of the land; and unilaterally proclaiming "nature preserves" in an area of 6,000 acres. The latter measure evokes a supposed love for nature that is belied when Israel destroys tens of thousands of acres of scenic views, fertile land and primeval rock gorges in a unilateral effort to establish the state of Israel's final borders - and reduce Palestinian territory to isolated enclaves.
Olmert carries on Sharon's legacy of politicide.
To state the obvious, it's preposterous to expect or demand that Palestinian violence cease in the face of ongoing brutalization and dispossession by Israel. It simply makes no sense to insist that Hamas choose the path of negotiation when all the negotiations of the last decade have only resulted in more occupation, more settlements, more checkpoints, and less land for a Palestinian state.