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USAID funds Israeli military checkpoint upgrade

Nov. 13, 2009 11:56 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 16, 2009 8:49 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Vehicles will soon be permitted to traverse Israel's northernmost military checkpoint separating the Jenin area from Palestinian communities in Nazareth and the agricultural zone to the north, an Israeli government news release said Wednesday.

The change in status of the military checkpoint, according to the release, was due to an upgrade in the military facility funded by USAID.

Israel spends three billion shekels per year on upgrading and maintaining its military infrastructure in the West Bank, including an expansive renovation of the Huwwara military checkpoint inside the West Bank, which was dismantled only months after it was installed. More permanent infrastructure was also installed at the Container checkpoint between Bethlehem and Ramallah, while renovations and adjustments were recorded at Israeli roadblocks across the West Bank.

The opening of the upgraded crossing was attended by Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development Silvan Shalom, Israeli Minister of Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman, Middle East Quartet special envoy Tony Blair and several other Israeli officials and USAID representatives. At least two Palestinian officials, head of the Gilboa village council and Jenin governor, were present at the opening.

Israel is not on the list of countries supported by USAID funding.

However, according to the USAID website, "with its border improvement projects, the United States is helping ease the movement of Palestinian people and goods, while improving Israel's security." No one at the agency could be immediately reached for comment on the issue.

The government of Israel news release said "speakers praised the outstanding cooperation that made the upgrade possible" and noted Blair stressed the symbolic significance of the event.

Governor of Jenin Musa Kadura said vehicle access would help the local economy, but expressed his hope that the crossing would soon be open to free passage for both sides. As it stands, Palestinians in Jenin without permits from the Israeli government are prohibited from accessing the crossing, or entering into Israel to visit Palestinian communities to the north of the West Bank.

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