Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism – Tamir Pardo, A former head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency told The Associated Press that Israel is enforcing an apartheid system in the West Bank, joining a tiny but growing list of retired officials to endorse an idea that remains largely on the fringes of Israeli discourse and international diplomacy.
Tamir Pardo becomes the latest former senior official to have concluded that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank amounts to apartheid, a reference to the system of racial separation in South Africa that ended in 1994.
Leading rights groups in Israel and abroad and Palestinians have accused Israel and its 56-year occupation of the West Bank of morphing into an apartheid system that they say gives Palestinians second-class status and is designed to maintain Jewish hegemony from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
A handful of former Israeli leaders, diplomats and security men have warned that Israel risks becoming an apartheid state, but Pardo’s language was even more blunt.
Pardo said Israeli citizens can get into a car and drive wherever they want, excluding the blockaded Gaza Strip, but that Palestinians can’t drive everywhere. He said that his views on the system in the West Bank were “not extreme. It’s a fact.”
Israelis are barred from entering Palestinian areas of the West Bank, but can drive across Israel and throughout the 60% of the West Bank that Israel controls. Palestinians need permission from Israel to enter the country and often must pass through military checkpoints to move within the West Bank.
Rights groups point to discriminatory policies within Israel and in annexed east Jerusalem, Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has been ruled by the Hamas militant group since 2007, and its occupation of the West Bank. Israel exerts overall control of the territory, maintains a two-tier legal system and is building and expanding Jewish settlements that most of the international community considers illegal.