Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided to implement a wide-ranging plan to pave dozens of interchanges along Highway 60, which runs through the West Bank from north to south, along with other steps to ease the life of the Palestinian population.
According to defense establishment data, paving the interchanges will reduce the friction between the Palestinian population and Israel Defense Forces soldiers by about 40 percent and will enable the Palestinians to travel more easily and without roadblocks between rural communities and the main towns in the West Bank. The cost of this project is estimated at tens of millions of shekels.
The decision was made in a discussion held by Olmert with senior defense officials where he was presented with a plan that was submitted to him, in the framework of which a series of steps will be taken to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Other than the proposed long term interchange project, the Prime Minister directed that restrictions be eased immediately for the Palestinian population in order to strengthen moderate elements and implement the agreements and understandings that were achieved at his meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas last Saturday.
The gradual plan includes several stages and its goal is to ease restrictions on the lives of the Palestinian population that is not involved in terrorism. In this context, several immediate steps will be taken in order to affect the daily lives of Palestinians, including increasing the amount of goods to be transported through the border crossings, increasing the volume and capacity of the various checkpoints so as to enable them to considerably shorten the lines of residents waiting to be checked, increasing the number of transit permits for the population that does not constitute a security risk, increasing the quantity of goods that may be exported from--and imported to--the Gaza Strip, reducing the time required to check people and goods.
In the second stage of the plan, which was also approved, roadblocks and checkpoints at dozens of places throughout the West Bank will be lifted. Olmert noted that it is the political echelon that will direct the implementation of the second stage in keeping with developments in the coming days.
Prime Minister Olmert said that the proposed plan “is likely to contribute to improving the atmosphere, strengthening moderate forces and distancing the civilian population from the cycle of terrorism. My hope is that by Eid al-Adha, the Palestinian population will feel a considerable improvement in its fabric of life.”