Easing of Restrictions in Judea and Samaria
(March 20, 2011)
The government of Israel decided to take measures aimed at easing restrictions in Judea and Samaria, which, it is hoped, will have a positive influence on the daily lives and routines of the Palestinian population and invigorate the Palestinian economy. Some of the measures designed to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population were implemented over the past three years. However, they have been accelerated during the past twelve months as the administration of Prime Minister Netanyahu seeks confidence building measures.
Within the framework of the easing of security measures, the scope of activity of the Palestinian security forces was expanded. Permission was granted to open twelve new Palestinian police stations in Area B, and the scope of activity of the existing police stations was also increased. This is in addition to the permission to open 20 new Palestinian police stations that was granted in 2008.
In the civil-humanitarian realm, improvements include the extension of entry permits to Israel for chronic patients and their escorts for the purpose of medical treatment, as well as for medical students doing their internship in Israeli hospitals, from three months to six months. Almost 30,000 patients from the Gaza Strip, and more than 175,000 from the West Bank, were transported for treatment in Israel from January 2009 to December 2010.
During the last two years, two thirds out of the forty-one check points have been removed. Currently, only fourteen remain in operation and the hours of service for all of them have been extended with 12 now open 24/7. For example, the A-ram checkpoint, located south of Ramallah has been removed, thus permitting free movement of vehicles and pedestrians; the Beit Iba checkpoint in Samaria was removed in March 2009. To prevent the passage of potential terrorists from Nablus, a new vehicular checkpoint was set up near Dir Sharaf village, northwest of Nablus, where only spot checks are carried out; two roadblocks, one next to Ras Karkar village, and the second near Eyn Yabrud village, were removed. The removal of these roadblocks allows free passage of vehicles between Ramallah and the villages to the east and west. The removal of the Rimonim checkpoint, located to the east of Ramallah, allows movement between Ramallah and the Jordan Valley, and the removal of the Bir-Zeyt checkpoint, located north of Ramallah, allows swift passage between Ramallah and the villages to the north. The removal of the Hableh roadblock south of Qalqilya, allowing movement between the city and the villages to the south.
Additional measures adopted include the opening of 422 crossings east of Qalqilya, to free movement of Palestinian vehicles between Qalqilya and the villages to the east, extending the working hours of the Haviot checkpoint, northwest of Nablus, to 24 hours a day, to improve the movement of Nablus area residents, extending the working hours of the Asira a-Shamalya checkpoint, north of Nablus, to 24 hours a day, opening of the Vered Yericho crossing, north of Jericho, which will allows free movement between the Jericho vicinity and the Jordan Valley for both vehicles and pedestrians, and the extension of the working hours of the Hawara checkpoint, south of Nablus, to 24 hours a day, with vehicular spot checks. The Hawara checkpoint is the main one in the Nablus vicinity and the easing of restrictions there allows swift passage from the city to all parts of Judea and Samaria.
An additional major measure adopted was aimed at improving the passage of Palestinian public figures and businessmen. Fifteen hundred permits have been issued to public officials, allowing them to pass through the Israeli crossings into Israel. This is a very significant move aimed at improving the quality of life of these individuals, who are the prime movers of the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria. In 2010, more than 4,000 Gaza businessmen were granted entry permits to Israel while 46,000 commercial permits were distributed to merchants in the West Bank to enable them to sell their wares throughout Israel.
The aforementioned checkpoint removals are in addition to about 200 unmanned roadblocks that were opened to traffic in the past two years in order to increase the civilian Palestinian population's freedom of movement throughout Judea and Samaria. The decision to open checkpoints was made following an assessment of the situation by Central Command and as part of the plan to ease restrictions that was approved by the political echelon.
Today, in Judea, Samaria and the Jordan Valley, there are just over 400 dirt roadblocks and 14 checkpoints, a reduction of more than a third in the total number that had been operational during the second Intifada. The IDF will continue to act according to decisions made by the political echelon, in accordance with security assessments. These actions are meant to further ease the routine life of the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, while continuously fighting terror and maintaining the safety of the citizens of the State of Israel.