The IDF’s Judea and Samaria Division is quietly promoting actions to ease travel and movement for Palestinians around the West Bank, even as critics in Israel and abroad slam an aborted plan for separate bus lines for settlers and for Palestinians, Israeli military officials said.
“These steps were promoted by the Civil Administration as part of a program intended to improve the fabric of life of the entire population and to contribute to a secure and stable reality,” an official in COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories told the Times of Israel on condition of anonymity.
The policy aims to avoid penalizing Palestinians for the crimes of terror organizations active in the West Bank, officials also told Ynet.
Among the moves is the construction of a new access road to the village of Beitin, near the settlement of Beit El. The road opened in the past few days. The Orot junction, near Tulkarem and the settlement of Avnei Hefetz, was recently opened to Palestinian traffic as well.
At the same time, the Judea and Samaria Division is working to reopen the northern entry to the Palestinian town of Bani Na’im, which has been closed for security reasons for an extended period. Another road scheduled to be reopened is the access road to the village of Qadum, which was closed off several years ago due to its proximity to the settlement of Kedumim. Due to the closure, residents of Qadum seeking to travel to Nablus needed to take a half-hour detour.
The residents of Qadum held a weekly protest against the road’s closure, which often deteriorated into violence, Ynet reported. “We are putting all our efforts into this issue, which has been ongoing for five or six years,” a senior officer said. “The goal is to build a new, safe and well-lit road.
The commander of the Judea division, Col. Yariv Ben Ezra, is also working to extend the southern industrial zone of Hebron to the northern edge of the nearby town of Yata.
The military recommended that the state refrain from the freezing of Palestinian tax money, saying this plunges the Palestinian Authority deep into a financial crisis and drives terror cells to flourish.
A senior unnamed officer told Ynet that more than 13,000 work permits and 4,000 trade permits were given to Palestinians so that they can make a living in Israel. “In a city like Hebron, the economic situation is blossoming,” the officer said.
The officer added that Hamas was continuing efforts to establish a terror infrastructure and recruit terrorists in the West Bank. “We will fight terror groups at any given moment, disrupting them and taking steps to prevent an eruption. There are many steps to make life easier for the Palestinians. Each housing or trade project you initiate, side-by-side with increasing construction in Area C, makes the Palestinians’ life better. Benefits for the Palestinian population generate peace and security quite clearly.”
The officer told Ynet that his counterparts in the Palestinian security establishment are also working to improve the security situation. “The governor of Hebron and the national security commander in the city are helping [prevent] incidents like kids throwing rocks by fining their parents. We did not see one kid, whose parents had been fined, throw stones again,” he claimed.
The situation, however, still remains precarious, the officer went on. “It’s enough that one terrorist fires a full magazine at a Jewish event in the Cave of the Patriarch to set us back 10 years,” said another representative of the Judea and Samaria Division.