(JTA) – Israel’s finance and defense ministers announced a two-year plan to improve conditions at security checkpoints in the West Bank.
Moshe Kahlon and Moshe Ya’alon, who is expected to be replaced as defense chief by Avigdor Liberman as part of a shakeup in the governing coalition, said the plan would make checkpoints, which tens of thousands of Palestinians go through in order to reach jobs in Israel, more efficient and secure, the Times of Israel reported Thursday.
The program is expected to cost $77 million.
Ya’alon said in a statement that the program will decrease the wait times for Palestinians at crossings between “30 to 50 per cent” and increase the amount of goods that can be transferred by “approximately 30 per cent.”
Last month Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, a member of the Jewish Home party who in 2012 was named by a settler group as the second-most right-wing member of the Knesset, surprised many when he criticized the “shameful” conditions at the checkpoints.
Ariel, a former leader of the Yesha Council settlers advocacy group and longtime supporter of settlement construction, noted that West Bank Palestinians are often forced to wait at checkpoints for hours without shade, water or other shelter from harsh weather conditions.
Ariel also called for a new port in Gaza, which has been subject to an Israeli naval blockade since 2006, when Hamas won control of Gaza.