The Juneidi milk factory is located along Road 60 on the outskirts of Hebron. Home to several hundred cows, the factory is the largest supplier of milk and dairy products to Palestinian cities, towns and villages in the West Bank. Five trucks also drive each day to the Kerem Shalom crossing in the South and transfer products to the Gaza Strip.
Over the years, the Palestinian Authority has been offered milk products from Israel but has persistently rejected the offer, preferring instead to invest in Juneidi and retain an independent milk-production capability.
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On Sunday, the head of the IDF’s Civil Administration, Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz, visited the factory to review the owner’s request to expand it by about 500 square meters in the direction of Road 60.
The problem is that the land is defined as Area C – West Bank territory
under full Israeli civil and military control – meaning that the
expansion requires Almoz’s approval.
After reviewing the plans, Almoz moved on to his next meeting, with the Hebron Municipality’s chief engineer.
The Palestinian official came with a request to open a road that runs
alongside Kiryat Arba and connects to the Lapid Junction, named for
Mordechai and Shalom Lapid, a father and son who were killed there in a
shooting attack in 1993.
The engineer came with another man in a suit and tie. He was the city’s
electrical engineer and had another request for Almoz: to replace the
electricity cables that run throughout Hebron. The PA requires Israel’s
permission since the lines run through Area C.
Almoz studied the maps on the hood of his Mitsubishi SUV and then took
off to his final meeting in the city, with Sheikh Jabari, leader of the
30,000- strong Jabari clan from Hebron and a key player in keeping peace
During the meeting in the sheikh’s luxurious living room, Jabari gave
Almoz a briefing on Jewish-Palestinian ties in Hebron, known for its
tension between the two populations. His assistant gave examples of how
the sheikh’s intervention over the years had prevented violence.
At the end of the meeting, the assistant had a request: allow
Palestinian schoolchildren to visit the beach near Zichron Yaakov.
Another assistant asked Almoz to remove a roadblock around the corner
that forced the sheikh to walk another 30 minutes through the city to
visit his sister.
This is the job of the Civil Administration. On the one hand, it is up
to Almoz and his men to continue coordinating with the PA and working to
help it establish greater independence and control over its own
destiny, while simultaneously ensuring that Israeli security interests
are taken into account.
At a time when the political echelons are not speaking to one another
and the Israeli government has publicly denounced the new Fatah- Hamas
reconciliation agreement, this is not an easy job.
Almoz’s important work is continuing even though the government is aware
that it is assisting the Palestinians in creating the necessary
infrastructure and institutions it requires for a state, essentially
helping the PA – albeit indirectly – make a unilateral claim for
statehood at the UN in September.
In Hebron, for example, the municipality recently published a massive
book in English detailing in text and pictures all of the new projects
started in 2010. There are dozens, and the majority have been
coordinated with the civil administration.
The thinking within the defense establishment is that as long as the
coordination with the PA is beneficial for Israel and the reconciliation
agreement with Hamas does not take on a practical form in which its men
take up positions within the Palestinian security forces, the
administration will continue to work with the PA.
“As long as there is no change in policy there is no reason to change
the way we work with the Palestinians,” a senior IDF officer said. “The
moment that changes, though, our work with the PA will also change.”