IDF mulls entry to West Bank cities by Jewish Israelis

Central Command chief visits Jenin in the first high-profile visit in years.

By
July 14, 2010 04:42
2 minute read.
MAJ.-GEN. AVI MIZRAHI

mizrahi 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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The IDF has told the Palestinian Authority it is willing to consider a request to permit Jewish Israelis to visit a number of West Bank cities as part of an effort to strengthen the Palestinian economy, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

On Monday, OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Avi Mizrahi visited Jenin as a guest of the PA’s local security commander. He spent close to four hours there, during which he toured a mall and soccer field, and met with Palestinian security chiefs and local businessmen.

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It was the first visit to the city by a high-ranking IDF officer in several years. Mizrahi was accompanied by a Palestinian security detail, while Palestinian policemen deployed along the main roads.

During his meetings with PA officials, Mizrahi was asked to allow Jewish Israelis to enter Jenin, which has seen a dramatic drop in terrorism since Israel, the PA, the US and the Middle East Quartet began a project called the “Jenin Model,” under which Israel scaled back its military operations there and PA security forces took over.

Jenin was once the West Bank’s “terror capital.” At least 28 suicide bombers were dispatched from the city from 2000-2003.

From April 1-11, 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, 23 IDF soldiers were killed and 52 were wounded in the city during fighting with Palestinian gunmen.

Around 52 Palestinians were killed, mostly gunmen, despite false claims of a massacre.



Jewish Israelis have not been allowed into Palestinian cities since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, and every week a number of Israelis are escorted out by PA security forces after, in most cases after getting lost and accidentally entering.

Under the Jenin Model, the IDF has allowed Israeli Arabs into West Bank cities on weekends, and every Friday hundreds of cars with yellow Israeli license plates cross over to shop in Palestinian markets.

Under consideration for entry by Jewish Israelis are Jenin, Jericho and Bethlehem, which are relatively quiet in terms of terror activity.

A senior IDF officer told the Post that such a move could be made in the future, to build confidence between the sides.

“This is possible and something to consider,” the officer told the Post. “While there is no guarantee that nothing will happen, these cities are relatively safe and the Palestinians have an interest in proving to us that terrorism is not an option.”

In June, Mizrahi gave permission to begin allowing Israeli tour guides into Bethlehem, for the first time since 2000. The move was intended to contribute to the Palestinian and Israeli economies, and to promote tourism to the region.

In addition, the army will enable tour groups to go directly to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, without the need to switch guides.

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