In fact, there seem to be 580 checkpoints in the West Bank.
But, an announcment by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that he had already previously decided to remove 50 dirt barriers in the West Bank is one of the concrete outcomes of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s energetic efforts in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Rice was asked about it by a journalist during a joint press conference on Sunday morning with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni:
“Question: Madame Secretary, are you satisfied with the gesture that the Minister of Defense is willing to take in order to ease the Palestinian life, if it’s enough to remove some roadblocks?
Secretary Rice: Yes, first of all, I would not characterize, though, what we need or what I expect to hear as gestures. I really do think that what we need to do is to have meaningful progress toward a better life for the Palestinian people, for the economic viability for Palestinians, even as we move toward the establishment of a state. And that’s why, as the Foreign Minister said, we’ve tried to do this in a simultaneous fashion. And there’s a shared responsibility here for an atmosphere and a reality that can lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on security for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and economic viability for Palestinians. And so that is what I’m looking to see if we can do. I understand the security considerations, and so I would hope and I expect that we’re going to be able to do some things, or that Israel and the Palestinians together will be able to do some things that are meaningful both for security and for economic viability. And it really does have to be shared responsibility for them”.
Rice was asked this question before she had even met with Israel’s Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak — because it had all been leaked beforehand.
When they actually did get to meet, a bit later, this is what happened, as communicated by the Israeli Government Press Office:
“Defense Minister Ehud Barak today (Sunday), 30.3.08, met with US Secretary of state Dr. Condoleeza Rice, at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. The two first met privately; later, they were joined by their delegations. Following the meeting, Defense Minister Barak held a three-way meeting with Secy. of State Rice and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, at which the three discussed various regional, diplomatic and security issues.
Defense Minister also presented a package regarding the easing of various restrictions on the Palestinians, which he approved last week. The package is as follows:
Easing of Security Restrictions (fabric of life, law and order)
1. Approximately 50 dirt roadblocks will be removed thus enabling vehicular traffic between Jenin, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah.
2. The opening of the permanent checkpoint in the Rimonim area.
3. Approval for the establishment of Palestinian police stations in B and B+ areas in order to promote law and order, after a comprehensive picture of deployments in Judea and Samaria will have been presented.
4. The deployment of 700 police personnel in the Jenin area (following their return from training in Jordan). Ultimate security responsibility will remain in Israel’s hands.
5. Mechanisms for issuing action permits for Palestinian forces for movement to B areas and for movement across brigade areas, in order to better deal with law and order, will be improved.
6. An inquiry into lifting additional roadblocks and checkpoints in Judea and Samaria will be carried out in the coming weeks, with the intention of completion by mid-May. [emphasis added]
7. The delivery of 25 APC’s – out of 50 – was approved.
8. The delivery of 125 vehicles and pieces of logistical equipment for the Palestinian security forces has been approved.
9. Approval of non-lethal equipment for the Presidential Guard is under consideration.
10. Various restrictions on the movement of public figures have been eased.
Easing of Restrictions on Businessmen
11. Various restrictions on the movement of businessmen have been eased.
12. Maximum assistance will be rendered vis-à-vis the 21-23.5.08 business conference in Bethlehem.
13. A senior Coordinator of Activities in the Territories officer has been appointed to deal with all issues involving the conference.
Increase of Employment in Israel
14. An additional 5,000 permits will be issued for construction work in Israel (the current quota is approximately 18,500).
Easing of Restrictions at Crossings (fabric of life)
15. Opening of the Sha’ar Ephraim Crossing for commercial activity on Fridays (immediate implementation).
16. Easing of pressure at the Kalandia and Rachel crossings by diverting prisoners’ visits to the Beituniya Crossing.
17. Upgrading biometric procedures.
18. Upgrading the humanitarian infrastructure at crossings.
21-23.5.08 Bethlehem Economic Conference for Investors
A. To allow the passage of businessmen from Arab countries, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority and Israel on a VIP footing (without checks) at Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Allenby Bridge, the internal crossings (especially in the Jerusalem area), as per the lists and pre-screening.
B. Israeli businessmen will be allowed to enter Bethlehem for the conference.
C. Approval has been given for the organized movement of businessmen in Judea and Samaria cities and into Israel (including Jerusalem and Nazareth).
D. Hours at the Allenby Crossing will be extended to 24:00 on 20.5.08 and 24.5.08.
Advancing the Establishment of Industrial Zones in Jericho, Hebron and Mukibla
A. The Tarkumiya Industrial Zone in the Hebron District – the goal is to move the “Ankara idea” from the Erez Industrial Zone to Judea and Samaria. The zone will received Turkish financing.
B. An industrial zone will be established for the processing and marketing abroad of Palestinian agricultural produce. The Japanese industrial zone in Jericho will be established close to the city. Japan, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and Jordan will be involved.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack then issued the following press statement on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Trilateral Meeting With Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
“The process launched at Annapolis includes several components—including the realization of President Bush’s vision of two states living side by side in peace and security, and implementation of Phase I obligations of the Road Map to improve the quality of life and the security of ordinary people on both sides. Today Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Defense Minister Ehud Barak agreed on concrete steps to implement the Roadmap. This is a program that will improve the daily lives of Palestinians and help make Israel secure. Lieutenant General William Fraser and others will continue their involvement in this effort to help the two sides implement their obligations. Secretary Rice was pleased to be able to join in those efforts today.
Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak agreed on points of special, immediate emphasis and work:
* Israel has pledged to reduce the impediments to access and movement in the West Bank. This will begin with the removal of about 50 roadblocks and immediate steps to upgrade checkpoints to reduce waiting time without sacrificing security.
* Both sides also agreed that the Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank should assume greater responsibility. Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak agreed to begin by bringing new life and hope to Jenin.
o For its part, the Palestinian Authority will deploy security forces to provide law and order, and work to prevent terror.
o For its part, Israel will take steps to ease access and movement to the city and its surrounding environs.
o The United States and others in the international community will fund projects and in an integrated governance and development effort help the Palestinian Authority develop institutions for governance and rule of law.
* The two sides will improve security coordination, so that Palestinian Authority security personnel can perform their vital duties and are equipped properly.
* Prime Minister Fayyad and Minister Barak also agreed on steps to promote economic development, especially projects, in the West Bank more generally.
o Both sides are committed to success of the Bethlehem investment conference and special arrangements will be made so that international visitors may attend.
o Both sides have agreed to create a major new industrial park in Tarqumiya sponsored by Turkey.
o The parties have completed connection of 27 Palestinian villages in the West Bank to the Israeli power grid and, in an unprecedented action, have connected Jericho to the Jordan power grid.
o The two sides approved in concept the development of new housing in the West Bank for Palestinians.
o Master Plans for 25 Palestinian villages in Area C have been approved.
o Israel offered to expand significantly opportunities for Palestinian workers and businessmen to travel to Israel from the West Bank.
All of these steps can provide meaningful improvements in the lives of ordinary Palestinian and Israeli citizens, if they are successfully implemented. As implementation is a key to success, Lieutenant General Fraser will be following closely each side’s efforts to implement the agreed upon steps. Secretary Rice is confident that both Prime Minister Fayyad and Defense Minister Barak are committed to implementing these steps. They have also agreed to continue their meetings”.