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Tens of Thousands of Palestinians Celebrate Christmas in Israel

For the second time in four months, the IDF opened the crossing points, allowing thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank to visit Israel, a rare opportunity to cross the physical and psychological fence separating both people, writes Shlomi Eldar.
Palestinian women enjoy themselves at a beach in Tel Aviv during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan August 20, 2012. A spokesperson for The Israeli Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories' (COGAT) said that improved security had allowed for the entry of over 1 million Palestinians from the occupied West Bank since the beginning of Ramadan. REUTERS/Nir Elias (ISRAEL - Tags: RELIGION SOCIETY)
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The terse statement released by the IDF spokesman received no special attention in the Israeli press. “The IDF Spokesperson and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories announce that during the Christmas holidays, steps will be taken to build trust among the Christian Palestinian population in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip.”

Ostensibly, this was just another stale announcement, delivered in typical military jargon. We’ve become used to those steps “taken to build trust,” which really amount to little more than a reduction of the number of checkpoints in the Territories, a decision to issue more work permits, etc. This time, however, the announcement represented something far more significant. As part of this easing of restrictions, no fewer than 20,000 entry permits were given to Palestinians in the West Bank, and another 500 will be granted to residents of the Gaza Strip. In addition there will also be permits for organized groups of Palestinians who wish to tour Israel.

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