Security Officials Recommend Easing Closure on Territories

Top Israeli security officials have recommended significantly easing the 4-month-old closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The closure, imposed in February after the first of a series of suicide bombings, has prevented tens of thousands of Palestinian workers from reaching jobs in Israel and has cost the Palestinian economy more than $300 million.

Top security officials, including Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, the head of the Israel Defense Force central command; Ami Ayalon, the head of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency; and Maj. Gen. Oren Shahor, the coordinator of activities in the territories, have advocated easing the closure, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported Tuesday.

If the closure is eased, 50,000 to 70,000 Palestinians would be allowed entry permits, security sources said. Permits would only be given to workers who are older than 25, married and do not have a security violation record.

Likud Knesset member Gideon Ezra, a former deputy head of the Shin Bet, called this week for an easing of the closure.

“It is not good for either side,” he said. “People want to go to work, and they should be allowed. These are the people we have to continue living with here.”

He said the Palestinians should be allowed to take the jobs now being filled by foreign workers.

Since the closure took effect, about 100,000 foreign workers have entered Israel legally. Some 100,000 others have entered illegally.

Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai was reportedly inclined to adopt the recommendations of the security officials, even though he said he would not make any decision before discussing it with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Rehavam Ze’evi, leader of the right-wing Moledet Party, voiced opposition to easing the closure.

He said the measure was effective in preventing terrorist attacks and that it should not be eased because of international pressure “just to have a more comfortable atmosphere when the prime minister goes to Washington” next week.

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