Palestinians Stand to Benefit in Blair Deal

Israel to dismantle some barriers to trade, travel in West Bank
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2008 11:00 AM CDT
Sitting under a portrait of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Middle East Quartet envoy and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, is seen during a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas, not seen,...   (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
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(Newser) – Tony Blair announced an economic deal today between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at boosting business in the West Bank, the Times of London reports. The agreement, the first brokered by the former British PM in his role as Middle East peace envoy, will see Israel remove four military checkpoints and withdraw security forces—seen as a key step toward Palestinian statehood.

The centerpiece of the accord is a development package for Jenin, a West Bank city larger than the entire Gaza Strip, which will host a business park and other economic and social projects. Though both sides greeted the plan with optimism, much depends on the reaction of the Israeli army, which is reluctant to remove checkpoints for fear of suicide bombings.