This week the government launched a new series of goodwill gestures towards the Palestinian Authority Arab population in Judea and Samaria, in consideration of the upcoming Christian holiday season. Israel must prevent, at the same time, the possibility of terror groups taking advantage of the gestures.

IDF Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (CoGAT) and Brig.-Gen. Motti Almoz, head of the Civil Administration, are set to visit church leaders to discuss the security measures planned around the holiday festivities.

In addition, officials from the Civil Administration’s Bethlehem district office met recently with their PA counterparts as well as with community leaders in Bethelehem, according to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office. The meetings were held in order to ensure the Christmas ceremonies would take place in accordance with the “status quo principle” relating to the ceremonial traditions established in years past, the IDF stated.

IDF soldiers as well as Israel Police and Civil Administration personnel will secure the Bethlehem crossings in order to ease the entry of the thousands of pilgrims expected to visit the small city during the holiday season.

Special measures to be implemented from Sunday, December 19 until Thursday, January 20, include:

• Christian PA Arab residents of Judea and Samaria (no age limit) are permitted to cross into pre-1967 Israel for the duration of the entire holiday period, and can lodge there until January 20

• 300 Christian PA Arabs are permitted to cross to Ben Gurion International Airport for the duration of the holiday season, subject to security assessment

• 500 Christian PA Arab residents of Gaza, over age 35, are permitted to enter Judea and Samaria and permitted to enter Israel for religious and family gatherings. Permits are to be issued subject to security clearance

• 200 Christian residents of Arab countries are permitted to enter Judea and Samaria during the holiday season

“The IDF will continue to operate in order to ensure that the Christian population in the Judea and Samaria region can celebrate the Christmas holiday,” said the IDF Spokesman.