Virtual concessions / Making a mockery of the state

By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff

Haaretz

Tevet 21, 5767

When the government and defense establishment declare their intention to mitigate some of the restrictions on the Palestinians in the territories, they're counting on the Israeli media's short attention span.

Announcing alleviations to the press is immediately rewarded with large headlines, the improvement of Israel's image overseas and an easing in U.S. pressure for concessions. Usually nobody checks whether the alleviations were actually carried out.

If the Palestinians complain that the mitigations were not implemented, we can always accuse them of ungrateful whining and issue a bunch of confusing data in response.

However, after a trip along West Bank roadblocks yesterday, Haaretz found that while the traffic flow in a small number of the roads improved, the situation is very far from the rosy picture Israel has painted.

The IDF promised not to inspect every car passing through the 16 central roadblocks in the West Bank, and to instead inspect one in every few dozen.

But at least some soldiers continue inspecting every vehicle, causing huge traffic jams and delaying cars for hours.

Other roadblocks reported as open had not been manned anyway for quite a while; and Israel's promise to remove earth ramps blocking entrances to villages has not been kept.

When U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives on Sunday, she may be tempted to believe that Israel has kept its word. Her hosts will tell Rice's entourage that no soldiers man the roadblocks at the entrance to Beit Jallah and Halhul - but they won't bother to mention that they had not been occupied since before the alleviations were declared.

Despite the IDF's announcement on the change at the Tapuach junction, a central intersection linking the Nablus region to Ramallah, Haaretz has found almost no change there. Every Palestinian car was held up for inspection.

When the traffic at the nearby Jit junction was flowing smoothly, a new roadblock materialized a few kilometers away at the Yitzhar junction. Here there were no alleviations whatsoever. Every car was stopped and inspected carefully, youngsters were taken off vehicles and asked to raise their shirts. As always in such cases, a traffic jam was formed.

A police van demanded that a Palestinian taxi driver in one of the pirate lanes hand over his license and identity card. The police disappeared with his papers, leaving the driver helpless. Numerous drivers were stuck there for hours.

The IDF seems to be making a mockery of the state's promises. Are the soldiers dictating the situation while their commanders turn a blind eye? It's hard to explain. With no effective supervision of the implementation, it is doubtful whether the prime minister and defense minister are even aware of the real situation.