Seasonal cheer for at least some Palestinians, with the immediate dismantling of 59 roadblocks in the West Bank. The first phase of 27 has begun, as has an opening for those wanting to resume work in Israel. More Palestinians are being allowed to cross into Israel to their jobs from today, subject to the usual rigorous checks and searches, and discussions are in hand to begin freeing Palestinian prisoners.
It is the first concrete results from the Abbas-Olmert meeting and following Israeli cabinet discussions this weekend; It also coincides with the Muslim religious festival of Aid-al-Adha. Israel is considering a prisoner release without the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit only to support Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and show he is the man Tel Aviv will deal with.
Abbas was at the Church of the Nativity to celebrate midnight mass on this day sacred to Christians and Muslims alike for the birth of Jesus.
A service symbolic of union and harmony, but some fear Israel linking concessions to Abbas like it has suggested by-passing the Hamas-controlled finance ministry to give Abbas millions of euros of back-taxes may drive Fatah (Abbas’s party) and Hamas further apart.