Prime Minister Ehud Olmert toured several checkpoints in Judea and Samaria on Tuesday to see if restrictions are being eased on Palestinians entering Israel, keeping good on a promise he made to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas during their recent meeting.
Olmert’s tour began in Sha’ar Ephraim, the main checkpoint for commercial goods in Samaria, where nearly 2,000 workers and 100 trucks pass from northern Samaria into Israel daily. The prime minister was impressed with scanning machines, which shorten inspections, but asked the army to cut the wait even more.
“It is important to me that those people who want to earn a living don't need to get up at 1 a.m. in order to work from six in the morning till six at night and will not have to wait long hours at the crossing points,” said Olmert. “There is a large population whose quality of life is dependent on us, and we need to demonstrate openness and tolerance toward them.”
Regional commanders who accompanied the prime minister said that since orders to ease restrictions were given, inspections have been reduced to 40 minutes per person and several trucks are now inspected simultaneously.
Brig.-General Yair Golan said that since the prime minister’s order was handed down, 44 of 160 checkpoints were removed and additional goods and people have been allowed to cross. Brig.-General Kamil Abu-Rukon said Palestinians said soldiers are treating them better and showing a greater understanding and tolerance towards them.
The prime minister said that Israel wants to be a good neighbor.
“We need to understand that there are some places where this will be difficult, but let’s not have isolated incidents take us off track,” Olmert said.