(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today (Tuesday), 16 January 2007, toured several crossings in Judea and Samaria following his promise to Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen at their 24 December 2006 joint meting that he would act to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population not involved in terrorism, in order to strengthen moderate elements in the PA. The Prime Minister surveyed the implementation of the plan to ease restrictions.

Prime Minister Olmert began his tour at Sha’ar Ephraim, Samaria’s main commercial crossing. Approximately 2,000 workers and some 100 trucks pass through it daily from Samaria into Israel. The Prime Minister observed the X-ray machines that shorten waiting times and asked that an attempt be made to further shorten the waiting time for workers: “It is important to me that those who want to work will not have to wake up at 01:00 in order to work from 06:00 to 18:00, that they will not have to wait hours at the crossings. There is a very large population whose quality of life depends on us and we need to show openness and tolerance towards them.”

IDF Deputy Chief-of-Staff Maj.-Gen. Moshe Kaplinsky, GOC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh and the district commanders who accompanied the tour told Prime Minister Olmert that since the order to carry out the easing of restrictions, the hours during which the crossings are open for workers and goods have been extended, the waiting time has been shortened to an average of approximately 40 minutes, and that the passage of trucks has been expedited so as to shorten waiting times.

Prime Minister Olmert met with officers of the IDF Samaria Brigade, who briefed him on the easing of restrictions and on the idea that this must be done for the Palestinian population that is not involved in terrorism. The Prime Minister said: “We want to reach good neighborly relations and this the line that we will take. We must take into account that there will be places in which this will be more difficult but we will not allow chance events to divert us from this direction.  We must constantly see that opening the crossings and easing restrictions on residents is the correct policy.”

IDF Judea and Samaria Division Commander Brig.-Gen. Yair Golan said that since the Prime Minister issued his directive, 44 out of 160 roadblocks have been lifted and the passage of more workers and goods has been approved.

IDF Judea and Samaria Civil Administration Director Brig.-Gen. Kamil Abu-Rukon noted that there is a feeling among the Palestinians that the soldiers are currently treating them better and are showing them greater consideration and tolerance.

Prime Minister Olmert continued on to the Jordan Valley, where he toured the Bezek Crossing. He stressed Israel’s commitment to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population while maintaining security for Jewish communities and Jewish civilians throughout Judea and Samaria and the entire country.

Removal of roadblocks in Judea and Samaria
(Communicated by the IDF Spokesman and Civil Administration)
As part of the political echelon and the IDF’s policy to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population, the IDF has prepared for the implementation of easements.

The first stage of the easing of restrictions entailed easing security checks of the Palestinian population at the crossings.

During the past few days, as part of the second stage, the IDF removed 23 roadblocks from routes used by the Palestinian population throughout Judea and Samaria, thus completing the removal of 44 roadblocks located in the areas of Nablus, Tulkarm, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Hebron. The removal of the roadblocks will ease travel between Palestinian cities and villages.