In a goodwill gesture, Israel has eased travel restrictions for Palestinians during the month-long Ramadan holiday. In a power-play, PA head Abbas has refused Israel’s overture.
An Israeli official said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority (PA) was hindering Israeli efforts to ease Palestinian travel during the month of Ramadan and was not cooperating with its goodwill gestures.
Last Tuesday, a spokeswoman for COGAT (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), the IDF unit responsible for implementing government policy in Judea and Samaria and vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip, stated that for the first time, Palestinians will be able to travel by bus directly from PA cities to the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, with no need to stop for a security check on the way.
However, as the second Friday of Ramadan approaches, the plans have failed to materialize and Palestinians are traveling through IDF checkpoints and not taking advantage of the Israeli overture.
COGAT spokesman Major-General Yoav Mordechai said on Wednesday that the PA was not cooperating and was “not doing its duty to serve the people during Ramadan.”
He reiterated that “for the first time since the Oslo agreement, Israel agreed to allow Palestinian and Israeli buses to travel from Palestinian cities directly to Jerusalem to take worshipers to Al-Aqsa Mosque, but the PA has not cooperated,” the Palestinian Ma’an news agency quotes him as saying.
Israel had reportedly asked the Palestinian side to take care of “administrative arrangements” related to the entry of buses into Jerusalem, but Mordechai stated that the Palestinian side said in response that this would be “difficult” to do, and failed to comply.
Administrative arrangements, according to Mordechai, include contracting appropriate bus companies, setting ticket prices, checking safety measures and making sure that “those who board the buses are eligible according to the conditions announced by Israel.”
Israel announced last week that Palestinian men above 40 would be allowed to enter Jerusalem without security screening, while men aged 30-40 would need permits and would be granted them if they are not banned by Israeli intelligence. Women of all ages are allowed to go to Jerusalem on Fridays.
Israel had also relaxed restrictions on movement from the Judea, Samaria and Gaza ahead of the holy month, letting up to 800 Palestinians from Gaza visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque every Friday.
“The PA agreed in principle, but no practical steps have been taken,” Mordechai added. “They have treated the issue in political terms.”
Acting on Abbas’ Orders to Fail the Plan
A Palestinian official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Ma’an that Israel had demanded that PA security forces take over security responsibilities from Israel and check all Palestinian buses before they left cities in the West Bank. “Israel wants us to carry out security tasks by preventing Palestinian men who are below 40 from boarding buses,” he alleged.
“They want us to thoroughly inspect men before they board the buses and to inspect the buses as well, and this is something we completely refuse.”
The official added that they were acting in accordance with orders from PA head Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel’s Minister of Interior Gilad Erdan stated that Israel tried to ease access to Jerusalem for Palestinians during Ramadan, but PA head Abbbas has chosen to refuse this gesture and withhold this advantage from his people.
“Abu Mazen [Abbas] and the PA prefer that the Palestinians suffer and wait many hours for security checks, and they are the ones who are withholding the relief. They are doing this so Israel will not appear as it really is – a moral state that works to ease the burden on the Palestinians. Abu Mazen has proven again that his singular purpose is to incite against Israel and that he is not interested in a diplomatic process.”
By: United with Israel Staff
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