The media have spent endless time expounding on the improved Palestinian quality of life. But it's thanks to the PA (the Palestinian Authority), a combination of "Fayyadism," Salam Fayyad, a former I.M.F. economist, now the Prime Minister, as well as improved Palestinian security. Certainly none of this is thanks to Israel which maintains the Occupation much as it was. Some of the checkpoints have been removed: so what? There are still surprise checkpoints – rolling checkpoints – with which we're all too familiar – and a multitude of various obstacles that impair freedom of movement. The IDF still operates in the cities, even if "only" occasionally. And facts on the ground indicate that the settlers are alive and well and building apace, or about to, and that for ordinary Palestinians life is hard, and for many there is no visible or tangible improvement in their lives.
15:00 on Route 55
A lot of traffic all the way, mainly large trucks, Palestinian as well as Israeli, with building materials. We note the newly paved roadway parallel to route 55 west of Azzun, the road used by Palestinians who cannot go on the "apartheid" road we travel on... Maybe the quality of life is improving through Palestinian efforts. (See also report about Deir Sharaf.)
South of the roadway, the outpost (one old, now empty Palestinian house), has new green plastic awnings around one side of it. On the northern side of the roadway, more activity: people walking about, a new structure away from the cave's mouth and a large cloth banner, which cannot be read clearly. What is plainly visible, however, in large Hebrew letters: "Gush Katif." The house in the process of being built in the newest development of the settlement is now nearly finished…
No work on the slashed hillside below the settlement of Shavei Shomron, Palestinian olive trees and earth gouged out on behalf of the settlement above. Piles of earth and a large pipe lie around. Nothing going on but for a Palestinian work crew on the road itself, holding up traffic as small tractors work on the side of the roadway. It looks as if the PA is fixing the sewage which flows swiftly with such an awful smell through the checkpoint at Deir Sharaf. For once a "checkpoint," or rather a "hold up" is created by the Palestinians, leaving the soldiers on this hot afternoon with nothing to do, or maybe they're just feeling relaxed! They don't even bother to glance at vehicles, either with Palestinian (green) or Israeli (yellow) license plates.
The former Beit Iba is a phantom of its former self, and few will ever believe what once greeted us or the horrors that were perpetrated here.
A long line of vehicles wait to be checked at this newly enlarged, alive and busy checkpoint, watched over by not one but two military lookout towers (not to mention the one high above at the settlement of Enav.)
A "balagan" greets us. The black Mercedes in front of us (Israeli license plates) seems to be a problem as we approach the checking booths. Suddenly, all the bells and whistles of the checkpoint go off, and the arms of the lanes leading out of the checkpoint itself close. The clanging noise continues as we ask the military policewoman about going into Jubarra. There are plenty of soldiers, police and border guards around. She tells us to wait in the middle of the checkpoint area. The sergeant commander comes over to ask what we want but immediately has to take a phone call. To do with the black Mercedes? We don't know. Eventually, however, we find ourselves standing at the locked gate, the arm in front of it still down, and the commander is unable to make it work. He returns to the central area of the checkpoint, comes back, but it still doesn't work, until he lifts it up, manually. Surprisingly enough, it stays, and we are let into the locked in hamlet, the soldier even being gracious enough to give us his phone number so we can call him when we leave.
Another MW shift arrives, and we make our way to Abu Ghatem's house to see how an ordinary Palestinian family is faring with the so-called improved quality of life. Here, in this seam line village, it's non existent.
As we leave Jubarra we note that the man driving the black Mercedes is surrounded by border police, soldiers and a large crowd of Israel's security forces. We had seen his blue ID (Israeli) being carried by the commander… Maybe a new policy to harass Palestinian Israelis?
Extremely quiet, hardly any workers returning home. A few, dropped off by their Israeli employers, make their way casually towards the terminal building and home – until the wee hours of the following day when they will find themselves again at Eyal, this time, trying to get into Israel.