Government mulls roadblock removal

But officials do not confirm Erekat's claim that PM promised him the removal.

idf roadblock 298 88 idf (photo credit: IDF [file])
idf roadblock 298 88 idf
(photo credit: IDF [file])
Security officials are conducting a comprehensive review of West Bank roadblocks with a view to removing some of them to ease the day-to-day life of Palestinians, a diplomatic source said on Saturday. When the study is complete, the Palestinians will be informed which of the roadblocks Israel intends to take down, the source said. However, the source could not confirm the claim over the weekend by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had promised Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to release in the coming days the list of roadblocks that would be removed. The Palestinian leadership has been pressing Israel to remove West Bank roadblocks to boost the standing of Abbas and Fatah there. The issue was raised again in last week's talks in Jericho between Olmert and the Palestinian leader. However, there was reportedly strong opposition from the security establishment to the dismantling of a large number of roadblocks, based on past experience when terrorists have entered Israel using routes where such roadblocks had been removed. National Infrastructures Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer confirmed that Defense Minister Ehud Barak was considering removing some roadblocks, but suggested there would not be far-reaching changes. The safety of Israelis takes precedent, Ben-Eliezer said. "I am in favor of removing roadblocks. But it's not, 'Let's go soldiers, remove roadblocks,' and tomorrow morning they wake up in Kfar Saba and Netanya with dozens of terrorists," Ben-Eliezer told Israel Radio on Saturday. Erekat said Saturday that the Palestinians had a commitment from Olmert to pursue a meaningful peace process to realize a two-state solution. He said Olmert gave specific assurances to Abbas at the Jericho meeting that by next week, the defense minister would submit a whole list of major checkpoints to be removed in the West Bank, to enable the mobility of the Palestinians. "We are taking the commitment of the prime minister seriously, and we are waiting to see deeds," Erekat said. AP contributed to this story.