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      Clinton in Ramallah, Protected by Checkpoints

      U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton meets this morning with top PA officials. Anti-terror checkpoints opposed by the US were put up for her protection.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 3/4/2009, 12:06 PM / Last Update: 3/4/2009, 1:06 PM

      U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is meeting Wednesday with top PA officials in Ramallah, after meeting with top Israeli officials on Tuesday. Her trip to Ramallah was protected by anti-terrorism checkpoints – of the same type that the U.S. opposes when they are put up for the protection of Jews in the area.

      At least two special checkpoints were established for the Clinton visit, as occurred when Clinton’s predecessor Condoleeza Rice often visited. One of the checkpoints prevents Arabs from entering the Jerusalem-Beit El-Shilo highway (Route 60) from the village of Hizme, near Jerusalem’s Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood.  The other checkpoint is located near Ofrah, preventing Arabs from traveling south towards Jerusalem on the same highway.

      Clinton chose not to travel directly to Ramallah from Jerusalem along an Arab-populated route, but rather via the safer and more roundabout route past the Jewish towns of Adam, Migron, and Beit El. 

      After she leaves Ramallah, the checkpoints will be removed – in accordance with U.S. pressure - and Arabs will once again be allowed free travel on roads between Jewish towns.

      Nodding Towards Both PA and Israel
      Secretary Clinton announced on Tuesday in Jerusalem that the United States would be “vigorously engaged” in the creation of a Palestinian Authority state. She also laid the onus on Hamas for making the first step towards peace, saying it must stop all rocket fire towards Israel.

      In Ramallah she met Wednesday with PA prime minister Salam Fayyad, and later with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and repeated her support for “two states for two peoples” - despite the fact that the apparently-incoming Israeli government feels a Palestinian state would not bring peace or stability to the region.

      The former U.S. first lady also reiterated her commitment to “improving life conditions for the Palestinians,” and Fayyad asked her again to pressure Israel to remove checkpoints and enable free Arab travel. Abbas, for his part, asked Clinton to pressure Israel on a different point – namely, the freezing of Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria.  He also discussed ways to increase Arab building in eastern Jerusalem and the transfer of goods to Gaza.

      Ms. Clinton met on Tuesday with Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.  She came to Israel straight from a conference in Egypt, where she pledged $900 million in US aid money towards rebuilding Hamas-ruled Gaza.