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Cablegate: Goi Relaxes Restrictions Around Nablus

VZCZCXRO0871
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #2744 3431434
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 081434Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9505
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0958
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS TEL AVIV 002744

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

NEA FOR FRONT OFFICE AND NEA/IPA; NSC FOR PASCUAL; TREASURY
FOR AHERN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON KWBG PREL IS
SUBJECT: GOI RELAXES RESTRICTIONS AROUND NABLUS

REF: JERUSALEM 2200

1. (SBU) Coordinator for Government Action in the
Territories (COGAT) External Relations Director Uri Singer
informed EconCouns on December 7 that the GOI would relax a
number of movement and access restrictions in the West Bank
for the Eid al-Adha holiday season. He also gave an update
on longer-term GOI plans to ease commercial movement in the
northern West Bank. Singer said the Huwwara, Beit Furik and
Beit Iba crossings would be open from 0500 to 2400 hours
during the holiday period. More importantly, commercial
traffic through Beit Iba and Awarta will not be subject to
the usual permit regime, opening up routes north and south of
Nablus to a substantially higher volume of truck traffic.
Singer said the Awarta checkpoint platform use for security
checks of off-loaded goods would be closed, allowing trucks
to transit Awarta with only a basic security check. He noted
that the NIS five million upgrade to the Huwwara crossing
(two new pedestrian lanes and a humanitarian lane for
children, women, men over age 45, doctors, teachers and human
rights workers) would be in service as of December 8.

2. (SBU) Singer confirmed that the new checkpoint north of
Nablus, reported reftel, was directly related to a
longer-term effort to relax movement and access restrictions
around Nablus and to improve commercial traffic flows between
Nablus and Tulkaram. He said it would remain unmanned and
would be used only in response to specific counterterrorism
operations. Singer also noted that the Ganot checkpoint
connecting Nablus with villages immediately to the north of
the city will now be open 24 hours a day; this will continue
beyond the Eid holiday season.(Comment: IDF Central Commander
Gadi Shamni told USSC Dayton on December 7 that the security
situation in Nablus has improved enough to try for a
longer-term relaxation of commercial traffic restrictions
from southeast of Nablus to Tulkaram in the northwest. Based
on that conversation, we expect measures taken at Awarta and
Beit Iba to continue after the Eid holiday in the absence of
any deterioration in the security situation. End Comment.)

3. (SBU) Singer said other measures taken for the holiday
period include permitting Israeli Arabs to enter Area A
throughout the West Bank for family visits; opening the Fig
Crossing to Israeli Arabs wanting to shop in Qalqilya; moving
to only random security checks for vehicles transiting the
crossing into Jericho; keepting the Allenby Bridge and Mussa
Alami crossings into Jordan open 24 hours a day; and
increasing access for Palestinians wanting to visit family in
Israel.

4. (SBU) Comment: Steady improvements in security and
security cooperation in the northern West Bank are beginning
to show potential for real economic consequences. In
addition to the measures outlined above, which could help
Nablus return to its former status as the West Bank's
economic powerhouse, Crossings Administrator Bezalel Traiber
told the Selva Roadmap monitoring team on December 7 that the
previous limit of 1,000 Arab Israeli pedestrians per day at
the Jalameh crossing near Jenin had been dropped. He said
1,700 Arab Israelis had crossed into Jenin the day before to
do their Saturday shopping. Continuing efforts to integrate
security improvements, economic development activities and
rule-of-law improvements in the West Bank -- carefuly
coordinated among all the key players -- will be crucial if
we are to build on these small steps forward.


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