Exclusive: Israel says no to Rice demand for free Palestinian passage from Jenin to Mt. Hebron

This demand, according to debkafile‘s military sources, would amount to lifting Israeli restrictions on Palestinian travel from the northern West Bank terrorist stronghold of Jenin all the way through Jerusalem’s outskirts to the southern West Bank Tarkumiyeh terminal, the Palestinian entry point from the Gaza Strip.
Our exclusive sources report that US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice put this stipulation to prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni, Sunday, March 30. It was one of three she wanted implemented in the five weeks before President George W. Bush’s attendance of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebrations.
Rice explained she was not asking for free Palestinian passage on all the West Bank’s roads – only one or two, where they could travel without running into Israeli checkpoints.
Israel’s top military commanders warned government leaders in the strongest possible terms that the US secretary’s demands if met would spell the end of their war on terror and expose Jerusalem and other Israeli cities to the waves of suicide killers their systematic efforts had been holding back. The checkpoints were a vital element of their operations to keep Israel’s heartland safe from terrorists.
The Jenin-Tarkumiyeh route, they said, was already targeted by terrorists led by Hamas for two-way smuggling between Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Removing all existing controls would present the Gaza and Jenin terror networks with the gift of a direct, unmonitored link.
The military warning covered Condoleezza Rice’s second stipulation for free Palestinian travel between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israeli commanders dismissed this as an invitation to import Gaza’s smuggling machinery of terrorists, explosives and disassembled rockets to the West Bank.
Rice’s third demand was for Israel to let 12,000 Palestinian security officers to train in Jordan for duty in all the West Bank’s towns. This is twenty times the number Israel proposed to allow.
It was not clear if Bush’s visit is predicated on Israel meeting the secretary of state’s demands.
They were the reason Olmert decided to relocate Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting from Jerusalem to the caves of Beit Shearim, the renowned second century center of Jewish learning in northern Israel’s Jezreel Valley.
The ministers decided to expand inter-city cycling routes and strongly objected to Rice’s demands as unacceptably hazardous to national security.
Barak offered instead the removal of 50 dirt roadblocks and the checkpoint outside Jericho, as well as repeating the offer to allow 600 security officers trained in Jordan to deploy in Jenin.
Rice responded skeptically that US General William Fraser would personally monitor the implementation of these steps and see for himself if the removal of the 50 roadblocks in the Jenin, Ramallah, Tulkarm and Qaliqaliya regions did indeed ease Palestinian lives.
To bring home to the American visitor the perils facing Israel close at hand, wide publicity was given Sunday night to a national emergency exercise called for two weeks’ time to prepare the country for non-conventional missile attack. It will encompass all branches of government, the defense community, local councils, schools and the home defense command. Medical services, fire brigades and other emergency services will practice large-scale evacuations of dead and wounded.

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