The Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced on Monday that Israel will not remove the 700 checkpoints, roadblocks and earth mounds that have cut the West Bank into hundreds of isolated islands, and made life for the Palestinian population a constant waiting game.The United Nations has condemned Israel’s checkpoint system as a form of collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population of the West Bank. The checkpoints put a choke-hold on every major artery through the West Bank, and every minor road and path as well. No travel is possible for Palestinians in the West Bank, even for short distances, without being forced to wait for hours or even days at Israeli-controlled checkpoints.

Barak promised that Israel would create an ‘industrial zone’ within the West Bank to provide cheap labor for Israeli businesses – but Palestinian labor unions have challenged the idea as exploitative, saying that Palestinian businesses and firms exist and should be allowed to operate on their own land. Barak gave no timeline for the creation of the ‘industrial zone’

If it were created, the work would essentially be prison labor, as Palestinians are imprisoned within the Israeli-occupied territories, and would not be allowed to travel beyond the fenced-in ‘industrial area’ controlled by the Israeli military.

Nabil Amr, an advisor to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, criticized the Israeli military’s decision to keep the checkpoints in place.’You cannot punish all of the Palestinians under the umbrella of security’, said Amr on Monday.