Army Experts Suggest 'Surprise' Roadblocks

Military experts presented alternatives to the policy of roadblocks in the West Bank, suggesting instead surprise roadblocks, Palestinian Authority-coordinated patrols, and more fences around Israeli settlements, at a conference in Jerusalem yesterday.

The current method, and the large number of roadblocks it employs, drew heavy criticism at the Van Leer Institute conference, where experts said it harms both the Palestinian population as well as the Israel Defense Forces.

At the conference, the experts presented a position paper asserting that the West Bank checkpoints motivate terror, and that reducing their number will help calm the atmosphere in the West Bank and undermine the status of Hamas in Gaza.

The team behind the paper includes senior reserve officers - including former heads of Military Intelligence and the Civil Administration, and division, brigade and battalion commanders in the territories. The group was coordinated by Ran Edelist, of the Israeli-Palestinian radio station The Voice of Peace.

This document, which was sent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, states that although the checkpoints prevent terror attacks in the short term, they are causing the population to lose hope, undermining human dignity and increasing the desire for revenge.

It blames the desire to prevent every terror attack at all costs for activity that does not distinguish between terrorists and citizens, and notes that the political echelon is aware of the strategic damage the policy causes, but fears criticism that a change in checkpoint policy contributed to an attack.

The officers question the effectiveness of the 550 checkpoints within the West Bank, and recommend scaling them back immediately and drastically.

The alternative plan is based on a coordinated and supervised system of surprise roadblocks, a rear defense line adjacent to the Green Line, better protective measures on the roads used by Israelis and better coordination with the Palestinian security forces.