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Cablegate: Israeli Procedures at Usg-Refurbished Jalameh

VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHJM #1966/01 3031526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 301526Z OCT 09
FM AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6504
INFO RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN 8674
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 4986
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS JERUSALEM 001966

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NEA FOR IPA AND FRONT OFFICE; NSC FOR SHAPIRO/KUMAR
ALSO FOR DS/DSS/IP, DS/OFM, AND L

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ODIP KREC KTIA ASEC EAID KWBG PREL IS US
SUBJECT: ISRAELI PROCEDURES AT USG-REFURBISHED JALAMEH
CROSSING, GATEWAY TO NORTHERN WEST BANK, HINDERING USG
MOTORCADES

1. (U) This message was coordinated with Embassy Tel Aviv.
An action request for the Department is in para 16.

Summary
-------

2. (SBU) While new GOI personnel at the Jalameh crossing,
north of Jenin in the West Bank, claim to be applying
long-established standard procedures, their actions are
preventing USG personnel from using the crossing to exit the
West Bank. On three occasions since October 14, U.S.
diplomats have been detained at Jalameh, on the basis of
requirements not applied at any other checkpoint in the West
Bank. ConGen Jerusalem and Embassy Tel Aviv have intensively
lobbied GOI security contacts for a solution, but the current
GOI position would require unacceptable compromises on our
own security procedures for crossing West Bank checkpoints.
The unavailability of the Jalameh crossing makes Jenin a
farther-away, harder-to-reach destination for USG personnel,
and obstructs our ability to support high-priority
initiatives in security, rule of law, and economic
development in the northern West Bank. It also has
significant implications for our ability to exit the West
Bank quickly. The Jalameh crossing was recently upgraded by
USAID in coordination with the GOI at a cost of USD 1.75
million. End summary.

Strike One at Jalameh
---------------------

3. (SBU) The GOI's Crossing Points Authority assumed control
of the Jalameh crossing from the IDF in October 2009. On
October 14, a ConGen motorcade attempted to cross it for the
first time since the handover. The motorcade was allowed
through the crossing from "Green Line" Israel to the West
Bank, en route to Jenin, after a delay. Returning from Jenin
en route to Jerusalem later that day, it was denied passage
altogether. Crossing operators demanded that USG
locally-employed staff (LES) passengers exit the vehicles and
submit to security screening. They further demanded that
official American passengers hand over their diplomatic
passports for inspection. Neither of these demands are part
of post's standard operating procedures for crossing Israeli
checkpoints within the West Bank, between the West Bank and
Israel, or between the West Bank and Jerusalem, and ConGen
personnel declined to comply.

4. (SBU) Motorcade personnel contacted the Regional Security
Officer (RSO) in Jerusalem, who advised them to adhere to
standard operating procedures and not to open their vehicles'
doors or windows. Jerusalem's RSO engaged IDF contacts, who
claimed that the Jalemeh crossing operators' demands were in
line with official procedures for all West Bank checkpoints.
This IDF claim is contrary to post's long-accumulated
experience at checkpoints throughout the West Bank, including
at Jalameh prior to October 14.

5. (SBU) Alerted by Jerusalem,s RSO to the impasse at the
Jalameh crossing, Embassy Tel Aviv's RSO likewise engaged
Israeli contacts and urged their cooperation in facilitating
the ConGen motorcade's passage. While the IDF did send an
officer to the crossing, the officer only reiterated the
demands of the crossing's operators, who then laid spike
strips behind the lead vehicle, preventing it from reversing
away from the checkpoint back into the West Bank. After 75
more minutes, with Jerusalem's and Tel Aviv's RSOs continuing
to work their contacts, crossing operators removed the spike
strips and directed the vehicle back to the West Bank. The
motorcade eventually transited the Shave Shamron crossing
near Nablus, following standard checkpoint crossing
procedures without incident.

Strike Two...
-------------

6. (SBU) On October 20, another ConGen motorcade to Jenin
was detained on its return trip to Jerusalem through the
Jalameh crossing. As on October 14, when the lead vehicle
entered the checkpoint, crossing operators demanded that
official American passengers hand over their diplomatic
passports and that LES passengers exit the vehicles for
screening. They again placed spike strips behind the vehicle
to prevent it from reversing out of the checkpoint. RSO
Jerusalem and RSO Tel Aviv both engaged Israeli security
contacts and urged them to allow the motorcade to cross. The


response from Israeli authorities, in short, was that the
Jalameh crossing operators were following long-established
procedures.

7. (SBU) At the direction of RSO Jerusalem, personnel in the
motorcade displayed their photo identification through the
armored vehicle windows but refused to comply with further
demands. The crossing operators eventually responded by
ignoring the motorcade, leaving it pinned inside the
checkpoint for three hours while RSO Jerusalem and RSO Tel
Aviv pressed their respective contacts for assistance.

8. (SBU) Just before 5:00 p.m. local time, the crossing's
operators began to close it for the day. When it became
clear that the motorcade and its passengers might be left
trapped in the crossing overnight, RSO Jerusalem conveyed
through their IDF contacts that the motorcade would reverse
out of the checkpoint if the spike strips were removed and
the barriers dropped. At approximately 5:20 p.m. local time,
the crossing operators removed the spike strips and dropped
the barrier, allowing the motorcade back into the West Bank.
The motorcade safely reached the Shave Shamron crossing well
after dark and crossed the checkpoint following standard
checkpoint procedures without incident.

Strike Three...
---------------

9. (SBU) On October 22, a third ConGen motorcade attempted
to cross into "Green Line" Israel at the Jalameh crossing en
route from Jenin to Jerusalem. Crossing operators again
refused passage and detained the vehicles at the crossing.
Based on the experience of the previous two motorcades on
October 14 and October 20, post decided to avoid another
prolonged standoff. The vehicles reversed away from the
checkpoint after waiting 45 minutes, then returned to
Jerusalem through the Hizma crossing following standard
checkpoint procedures without incident.

10. (SBU) In all three cases, the convoys' information,
including the number of passengers and the vehicle license
plate numbers, had been provided to the GOI in advance.

Context
-------

11. (SBU) It has been a long-established post security
practice not to open armored vehicle doors or windows at
checkpoints within the West Bank, between the West Bank and
Israel, and between the West Bank and Jerusalem. With the
current exception of Jalameh, Israeli crossing operators
(whether IDF or civilians) routinely identify passengers by
examining their identity cards or passports, which the
passengers press to their vehicle,s closed window. ConGen
motorcades continue to adhere to this standard procedure at
all other West Bank checkpoints without difficulties.
(ConGen personnel routinely exit the West Bank through
Israeli checkpoints without displaying any identification at
all.) Post strongly believes that a "closed door" procedure
serves a practical security purpose by physically separating
two sets of armed individuals -- the Israeli crossing
operators and the U.S. protective security personnel -- in
the event that a misunderstanding leads to raised tensions.

12. (SBU) In addition, Israeli authorities have never
proposed or attempted to apply special requirements on LES
accompanying official Americans in ConGen motorcades at any
West Bank crossings, with the recent exception of Jalameh.
Post has serious reservations about this demand for reasons
described in para 11, as doing so would necessitate opening
vehicle doors to allow LES passengers to exit for searching.
It also would have the practical implication of leaving USG
protectees in a vehicle without a driver, should an emergency
situation arise.

13. (SBU) Finally, post is concerned that granting this
concession would put us on a slippery slope, leading to
situations where crossing operators demand that all
passengers, LES and official Americans alike, exit the
vehicle, that all passengers be subject to search, that
crossing operators enter the vehicle, and so on.

Why Jalameh matters
-------------------


14. (SBU) The USG has placed a priority on supporting
development and expanding security and rule of law in Jenin
and the surrounding northern West Bank. USAID has 33 ongoing
activities in the Jenin Governorate, and Jenin is often
trumpeted as a success story of West Bank economic
development. Many ConGen elements, including our INL,
Political and Economic Sections, as well as USSC and
high-level visitors from Washington, regularly travel to
Jenin to meet key stakeholders and monitor ongoing projects.
While alternate routes to Jenin that avoid the Jalameh
crossing do exist, they take significantly longer on
poor-quality roads, and would complicate an evacuation in the
case of an emergency.

15. (U) USG efforts in the northern West Bank have included
the Jalameh crossing itself. On October 1, USAID completed a
USD 1.75 million upgrade to the crossing to allow private
vehicles to pass through, with the goal of increasing
economic activity in the area.

16. (U) Action request for the Department: Post requests
guidance on this issue.

RUBINSTEIN

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