Maariv: Four-hour standoff between US diplomats and IDF soldiers at West Bank crossing
The crossing where the incident occurred was ceremonially opened on November 10 with much fanfare and hailed as an example of ‘economic peace.’
US Diplomats who refused to identify themselves detained for hours at roadblock
Ahikam Moshe David, Maariv, November 15 2009 [page 3]
Tensions between the US and Israeli administrations appear now to have filtered down to the lower-level officials. Passengers in a convoy of cars from the American Consulate in Jerusalem that pulled up to the Gilboa (Jalame) border crossing between the Palestinian Authority and Israel refused to identify themselves. As a result, their entry into Israel was delayed by approximately four hours.
The embarrassing incident began on Friday afternoon when five cars with diplomatic license plates arrived at the new border crossing in the northern West Bank—a border crossing that was officially opened just last week to motor vehicle traffic with American funding to boot. When the passengers were asked to identify themselves by the Israeli personnel, the Americans refused even to roll down their tinted windows and to present their diplomatic passports, which would have exempted them from any further inspection. Given the situation at hand, the Israeli security personnel refused to permit the convoy to pass.
At a certain stage Defense Ministry and police officers were called in to the border crossing, but despite their repeated requests, the Americans refused to roll down their windows and claimed that that was the arrangement with them. “What can I do?” a dismayed Israeli police woman asked her superior officer, “the driver doesn’t want to give his ID.”
The Israeli security personnel, who appeared to be unnerved by the Americans’ arrogant behavior, tried to explain that they were afraid that the drivers were not diplomats but, rather, East Jerusalem Palestinian residents. Those efforts were made in vain. Ultimately, the incident ended only a number of hours later, when two security officials from the American Embassy in Tel Aviv arrived and persuaded the people in the convoy to present their passports as required.
“There are always provocations at the roadblocks with people from the consulate in Jerusalem,” said yesterday a security official who was involved in the incident. “Their cars are driven by drivers from East Jerusalem who insist not to be inspected, despite the fact that they don’t have diplomatic immunity. We need to make sure that the people in question are diplomats, but that can’t be done through opaque black windows.”
The incident resulted in the closure of the border crossing for the entire day, which made many Israeli Arabs who wanted to use the crossing to visit their Palestinian relatives turn back. “They finally opened the border crossing,” said a young man from Turan in the Galilee, “and we thought we’d be able to go easily to Jenin. Are they shutting us in all over again?”
A spokesman for the Defense Ministry said: “We operate in keeping with the procedures that were set by the Foreign Ministry and in keeping with the accepted rules in the world with respect to the bearers of diplomatic passports.”
An American diplomat said last night: “There was a misunderstanding that was resolved in the end.”