The Israel Defense Forces is preparing to remove checkpoints in the West Bank as part of a goodwill gesture toward Palestinians before the anticipated resumption of peace talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, Army Radio reported on Thursday.
While Israel has refused Palestinian demands for a total settlement freeze, the government has instructed the military on the ground to ease the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, a move which has aroused objections from Jewish settlers in the area.
According to Army Radio, IDF commanders are examining alternate security measures in the southern Hebron Hills region that would allow for the removal of a major roadblock near the settlement of Beit Hagi, which is adjacent to the entrance to Hebron.
Zvika Bar Chai, the head of the southern Hebron Hills regional council, told Army Radio that the decision to remove checkpoints and roadblocks had dangerous implications.
“We don’t know where the next terrorist attack will come from, particularly in this instance,” he said, citing the checkpoint near Beit Hagai, the scene of numerous attacks on settlers. “There is no justification for opening this checkpoint, which was put up here at the time due to security concerns.”
The military said it is examining numerous other checkpoints for removal, and that no decision has been made regarding specific roadblocks.
Naftali Bennett, the chairman of Bayit Yehudi, a key partner in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s coalition, said that he was opposed to Israeli gestures before the renewal of peace negotiations.
“I’ve never given anyone anything just for the right to hold negotiations,” he said. “Whoever wants to talk is welcome to do so, but I’m not handing out free gifts.”