JERUSALEM (Dec. 19)
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan said here today after a helicopter visit to the main bridges of the Jordan River, that basic restrictions imposed by Israel for security reasons on bridge traffic would remain in effect but that some relaxations may be worked out to restore West Bank-Jordanian trade relations.
The restrictions were imposed after a blast Nov. 22 in the Mechane Yehuda market in Jerusalem which killed 12 persons. Gen. Dayan told reporters that three new steps had been adopted to prevent westward smuggling of arms and explosives across the Allenby and Damiya bridges. One requires owners or drivers of vehicles to post substantial bonds to guarantee that their vehicles will not he misused. The second requires a new permit for each bridge crossing and removal of reserve tanks and tool boxes. The third involves a thorough inspection by Israeli experts of every returning truck.
Gen. Dayan was asked whether the bridge traffic was a “vital factor.” He replied it was a positive factor but he added, “we will survive” if bridge traffic ceased completely. The drivers complained to Gen. Dayan against the removal of their reserve tanks and over the fact that they have to return with empty trucks to the West Bank. Gen. Dayan said resumption of imports from Jordan may be considered later.
Previously, Israeli officials said that while several scores of trucks had been specially licensed to carry perishable products from the West Bank to Jordan, only 10 trucks crossed the two bridges Tuesday after the ban on such traffic was partially lifted. The trucks returned empty. The ban was relaxed to allow movement of fresh fruits and vegetables to Jordan to ease the economic hardship suffered by West Bank farmers in the loss of their Jordanian markets. The small number of trucks crossing with such perishables was attributed to incompleted marketing arrangements in Jordan. All other trucks must still unload their cargoes for inspection and the cargo is then carried across the river to Jordan by porters.