In December 1966, after 18 years and a long struggle, the Military Rule imposed on Palestinian citizens of Israel since the country’s establishment was abolished. The Emergency Regulations, however, remained in place, as did the system of closed areas and travel passes, along with some restrictions on movement. A letter sent to the Prime Minister by the Arab Affairs Advisor in April 1967 confirms that “in practice, hardly any restrictions have been loosened,” after the abolition of the Military Rule and advises allowing Palestinians free travel to certain areas, as it “would be of great benefit to our relationship with the Arab minority.”

On December 1, 1966, the Military Rule that had governed the lives of about 85% of Israel’s Palestinian citizens for 18 years was abolished. Publicly, the abolition was touted as part of a policy that strove towards equality between Jewish and Palestinian citizens. A review of historical records, however, indicates that the main reason for the abolition was because the Military Rule had achieved its covert objectives, which it had been kept in place for so long in order to achieve. Once the Military Rule was lifted, its powers were transferred to civilian enforcement agencies led by the Israel Police and the Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency).

While the dissolution of the Military Rule was a significant development and it no longer controlled and monitored Palestinian citizens, the Defense (Emergency) Regulations, which provided the legal basis for these policies, remained in place. In a discussion ahead of the Military Rule’s abolition, representatives of the Palestinian public expressed reservations. Tawfik Toubi, an MK for the Communist Party, said the transition from military to civilian monitoring was largely cosmetic and demanded the Defense (Emergency) Regulations be repealed entirely. Toubi thought the demise of the apparatus would not produce “any substantive change,” and Palestinian citizens would continue to be oppressed by other means.

In many ways, Toubi was right. In practice, the system of closed areas and travel passes continued after the Military Rule’s abolition, with some movement restrictions remaining in place. In a letter sent to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol on April 4, 1967, Shmuel Toldeano, the Arab Affairs Advisor, wrote: “Both the Jewish and Arab public assumed, erroneously, that upon the abolition of the Military Rule apparatus, the closed areas would be canceled as well, and every citizen would be free to travel anywhere without a pass. As is well known, the abolition of the Military Rule was greatly anticipated, but since in practice hardly any restrictions have been loosened, disappointment has been felt among the Jewish and Arab public alike.” (emphasis added). It was not until the end of 1967, after the Six Day War, that travel restrictions were lifted entirely.


Letter of the Arab Affairs Advisor to the Prime Minister
April 4, 1967