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Cablegate: Cautious Optimism in Jenin As Jalameh Crossing

VZCZCXRO7520
RR RUEHROV
DE RUEHJM #1933 2951800
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221800Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6443
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001933

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USAID TO BORODIN, NSC FOR KUMAR, JOINT STAFF FOR
SELVA, NEA FOR IPA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ETRD EAID KPAL KWBG IS PBTS
SUBJECT: CAUTIOUS OPTIMISM IN JENIN AS JALAMEH CROSSING
OPENS TO ARAB-ISRAELI VEHICLES

1. (SBU) Summary. On October 4, following the completion of
USAID-funded structural improvements, Jalameh Crossing (on
the West Bank-Israel border north of Jenin) opened on October
4 for Arab Israelis in personal vehicles to cross into the
West Bank and back for the first time since October 2001.
Members of the Jenin Chamber of Commerce stressed that it
would take several months to judge the economic impact and
the sustainability of the flow of visitors. They noted that
Jenin's restaurants and streets were busy on the first
weekend of Jalameh's opening. End Summary.

Jalameh Opens on Trial Basis
----------------------------

2. (SBU) The personal vehicle crossing at Jalameh opened the
week of October 4 for approximately 20 vehicles per day, and
gradually ramped up over the following two weeks to a cap of
200 cars per day. The crossing continues to operate on a
"trial basis" from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week.
Vehicles entering the West Bank stop for an ID check and are
given a list of items with which travelers are prohibited
from returning to Israel through the crossing, including
meat, dairy, eggs, car parts, and flammable materials. No
wait time was observed for cars entering the West Bank, while
the waiting and processing time appeared to average about
30-40 minutes during peak times for cars exiting Jenin to
Israel. When departing, passengers and drivers show their
ID, open their trunks for spot checks, and are usually
directed to a secondary inspection. Local sources said that
the crossing into the West Bank sometimes closes earlier than
expected once the cap of 200 vehicles is reached. Econoffs
(who spent three hours at Jalameh attempting to enter Israel
en route from Jenin to Jerusalem in a diplomatic vehicle on
October 20) observed Arab Israelis returning home with
shopping bags of goods and even furniture.

3. (SBU) Members of the Jenin Chamber of Commerce were
enthusiastic about the opening, noting that "For the first
time, we believe you, USAID, and Mr. Blair when you talk
about improving the economy! Opening this crossing was the
Chamber's priority." Nasr Atyani, the general manager of the
Chamber, added that the remaining uncertainty about the
official opening, hours, number of permitted vehicles, and
restrictions on bringing back goods needed to be cleared up
in order to institutionalize the border easing.


A Necessary But Not Sufficent Step?
-----------------------------------

4. (SBU) Members of the Jenin business community are hopeful
that the influx of Arab Israeli shoppers will allow residents
to capitalize on the security improvements and lead to
noticeable improvements in what one Jenin businessman called
this "blighted region." However, in visiting Jenin to
discuss the opening of the crossing, econoffs were repeatedly
told by local residents that there are other steps required
to restore economic vitality to the region. Jenin's economy
remains heavily dependent on agriculture and wages from
workers in Israel. Jenin's business leaders continue to call
for the relaxation of restrictions that farmers face in
accessing their fields near and on the other side of the
separation barrier, and for increasing the number of permits
for locals to work in Israel.
RUBINSTEIN

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