Ma'an News Agency
May 24, 2010 - 12:00am

The Israeli army said Monday evening that it would relieve some of the restrictions placed upon travel in the West Bank, after meeting with Palestinian Authority officials, a statement read.

The apparent "good will gestures" include the entry of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and ID cards through all checkpoints into the West Bank, and Tulkarem via the 104 checkpoint at weekends.

Restrictions will be eased on senior Palestinian businessmen going through checkpoints and 60 roadblocks will be lifted throughout the West Bank, the army said.

Additionally, the Adh-Dhahiriya crossing, southwest of Hebron, will be opened to allow free passage of Palestinians, and the Qeidar road, near Ma'ale Adumim in occupied East Jerusalem, will be opened for Palestinian movement, the statement read.

All checkpoints into Bethlehem will be open to tourists and 50 Israeli tour guides will be issued entry permits to Bethlehem.

Reports surfaced in April concerning the entry of Israeli tour guides, with the PA Ministry of Tourism saying it was not opposed to the plan but was neither consulted nor asked to okay the new regulations.

"Its important to note that restrictions on Israeli travelers and guides are not imposed by the Palestinian Authority, nor the Palestinian people, but are in fact a rule put in place by the state of Israel itself," PA Minister of Tourism Khloud Daibes said in an interview with Ma'an at the time, adding that Palestine was "open to all visitors."

The meeting, held Sunday evening between Israel's Central Command chief Major General Avi Mizrahi, and the Head of the Civil Administration Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, and unnamed PA officials, further discussed various "security related issues," according to the army.

It is unclear if the ease is related to ongoing US-mediated talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials, however reports surfaced Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was considering an offer to ease restrictions placed on West Bank residents' movement, after meeting with US Middle East envoy George Mitchell.

While Netanyahu's office would not disclose information on what was discussed during the meeting, following President Mahmoud Abbas' suit, Israel's Army Radio reported that the premier was prepared to offer "gestures" including the lifting of various West Bank road blocks and releasing of Palestinian prisoners.

Government sources reportedly told the Reuters news agency that Netanyahu was examining favorably a proposal to build a road linking the West Bank on land Israel had originally allocated for settlement.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs a 2009 report said Israel continued to implement measures that increased the freedom of movement of Palestinians between most Palestinian urban centres in the West Bank. "However, during the same period, there has been no significant improvement when it comes to access to land and use of space by Palestinians. In particular, Area C, which covers 60 percent of the West Bank has remained, to a large extent, off-limits for Palestinian use and development."

Its most recent report, OCHA noted an increase in what it termed "a new wave of stop-work orders in Area C" with 41 families issued the warrants between 12 and 18 May 2010, while many residents remain cut off from agricultural land.

Additionally, it would appear that Palestinians with West Bank ID cards would still remain barred from entering occupied East Jerusalem.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017