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U.S. Supports PA´s Bid for Free Passages Through Israel

Negotiations over the "free passage" for Gaza Arabs to Judea are stalled. A host of issues are unresolved, but the fired-up security situation has forced a halt altogether.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 12/9/2005, 7:44 AM / Last Update: 12/8/2005, 3:03 PM

Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman reports that the United States and the European Union support the Palestinian Authority's demand for not only one, but three "free passages" via Israeli territory to PA-controlled areas.

Israel is willing only to entertain the possibility of a one-route passage, from Gaza to Tarkumiye in the Hevron region. The PA demands that "free passage" be afforded to Ramallah and Shechem as well.

Another point of dispute concerns the number of trips. Israel agrees to five two-way trips each day, while the PA demands that the five buses be able to travel freely throughout the day. The PA also demands that the buses be its own, while Israel demands that its buses be used.

In any event, Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz has suspended the talks, because of the current rocket firings from Gaza at the Negev.

In addition, the newly-opened Rafiah passage between Egypt and Gaza is an issue. Israel says that under the current arrangements, it does not learn the identity of those entering Gaza until several minutes after their entry - allowing wanted terrorists to "lose themselves" in Gaza before Israel can react. Israel says that until this issue is resolved, the talks on the "free passage" will remain suspended.

United States officials, discussing the matter with Defense Ministry representatives, support the PA's demand for routes leading directly to Ramallah and Shechem. The officials reportedly said that to force the Gazan Arabs to travel through Samaria on their own would be unfair, given all the checkpoints they would have to pass through.

The "safe passage" talks were being conducted between Israel's Maj-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, the head of the Defense Ministry's foreign policy department, and the PA's Muhammed Dahlan.