Israel’s plan to close West Bank over Succot begins to unravel

Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman had announced an 11-day closure last week, but exceptions have since been made for many Palestinian workers


An order by Israel’s Defence Ministry to stop Palestinian workers from crossing into the West Bank for nearly two weeks is unravelling just days after it started.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman had decided on the 11-day closure, lasting until midnight on 15 October, in response to an attack at the Har Adar settlement last month in which 3 Israeli security personnel were killed.

But days later the ministry agreed that the closure would not include Israel’s settlements and factories within the West Bank, where Palestinian carrying permits could continue to work, and an additional ten thousand workers who would be allowed inside Israel to work in agriculture.

Border closures over the High Holidays and other Jewish festivals are routine, but are usually much shorter.

The original decision stoked complaints within the Israeli security establishment that it was principally “grandstanding” by ministers eager to burnish their right-wing credentials.

The 11-day closure, a demand of the police and Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, was initially opposed by the Israeli military and senior Defence Ministry officials who said that it would be an unnecessary punishment to tens of thousands of law-abiding Palestinian workers.

The IDF has largely allowed Palestinians to cross into Israel for work in recent years, believing it is a policy that provides a major source of income for the Palestinian economy and prevents violence from spreading to wider parts of society.

The Har Adar incident last week was only the second time in attacks over recent years that the perpetrator had held a permit to work in Israel or on an Israeli settlement.

But the attack also swayed the debate on the border closure and the generals are understood to have changed their position reluctantly, accepting the police recommendation and taking Mr Lieberman along with them.

The IDF commanders support the view of Defence Ministry officials that adding tens of thousands of new permits to the current 50 thousand will provide increased incentive for keeping the calm and improve security.

They have also recommended approving such permits for Palestinians in Gaza, although these recommendations have so far not been accepted by the cabinet.

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