Jericho, West Bank - Thursday, Nov. 6
"Smell the jasmine and taste the olives," my mobile phone tells me. "Welcome to Palestine."
The Istiraha, or "rest station" in Jericho is anything but restful. Our bus from the border heads into an Israeli closed military zone where inside our passports are taken from us by Palestinian security guards. Meanwhile we 48 travellers sit on the idling bus, waiting while our passports are checked for the third time in a matter of a few kilometres.
The Istiraha is nominally under the control of the Palestinian Authority, but there little question who's in control here. The PA guards have nice camouflage uniforms, but no weapons. The Israeli soldiers who control the perimetre are equipped with American-made M-16 assault rifles and armoured jeeps.
It's one of the most damaging criticisms of the Palestinian Authority under President Mahmoud Abbas: that in seeking peace with Israel while simultaneously waging a quiet war against the Islamist Hamas movement, its security forces have become little more than part of the occupation.