Hebron's Zion Route to be opened to Palestinians

IDF announces plan to bolster PA president.

masked settlers riot hebron 248.88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski  [file])
masked settlers riot hebron 248.88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
As part of its effort to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the IDF on Monday announced that it planned to partially re-open Zion Route in Hebron to Palestinian vehicles. The route, which begins at the back of the Kiryat Arba settlement and leads into the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron, was closed to Palestinian cars soon after the start of the second intifada in October 2000. It is one of a number of roads which cut from Kiryat Arba through the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron, which the IDF closed to Palestinian cars at that time to protect the small enclave of close to 1,000 Jewish settlers who live among some 30,000 Palestinians. The IDF said on Monday that it intended to re-open this road strictly for vehicles owned by 80 Palestinian families that live along the road. The IDF added that new security measures would be put in place along the road to ensure the security of the Jewish residents in Hebron. According to Army Radio, the IDF is also concurrently exploring the possibility of reopening the section of Shuhada Road in the heart of Hebron, which is closed to Palestinian pedestrian traffic with the exception of the residents who live on the street. Hebron's Jewish community attacked both moves and accused the government of "playing politics with their lives." Attempts to ease restrictions in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron almost always lead to Palestinian attacks against Jews, community spokeswoman Orit Struck said. Most of Hebron is closed to Jews for security reasons, and there is no reason to increase the risk to Jewish lives in the small section of the city where they are allowed to be, Struck said, adding that the current government had no authority to make this decision, since it is about to be replaced. MK Arye Eldad (NU) warned that the moves would lead to violence, saying, "The victims' blood will be on the heads of [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert, [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak. Olmert's government was preparing a 'ticking bomb' that would explode during Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu's tenure." "The government is planning to free hundreds of murderers in a deal with Hamas, and now intends to shed the blood of Hebron residents by opening the only transport route in the Jewish ghetto to murderers," Eldad told Army Radio. In contrast, Meretz leader Haim Oron told Army Radio that the move was the right one and was extremely significant. "The most important thing we must understand from the plan is the willingness of the Israeli defense establishment to delegate security authority to the Palestinians, like in Jenin," Oron said. Peace Now secretary-general Yariv Oppenheimer also praised the move, saying it was vital to bolster moderate forces in the West Bank. "Opening the road will prove to Palestinians that quiet and security bring both nations toward a solution," he said.