Israel starts running Allenby crossing nearly full-time after year-plus of US urging

Israel began operating the Allenby crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on a nearly full-time basis on Sunday, after more than a year of pressure from the Biden administration.

The crossing is mainly used by Palestinians who are prohibited from using Ben Gurion International Airport. As a result, they fly internationally out of Amman but first must pay additional border crossing fees and endure the perennially long wait times that have historically characterized the travel experience through Allenby.

For more than a decade, American administrations have pressured Israel to extend the operating hours of the Allenby crossing to help reduce wait times. Although the crossing was open almost full time, for the past twenty years, Allenby has only been open from 8 am to 11:30 pm on weekdays and from 8 am to 3:30 pm on weekends. Those with early morning flights out of Amman were forced to pay for a hotel or spend the night at the airport.

Allenby’s experience of Palestine concerned the US Ambassador, Tom Nides, who made it one of his top priorities to attract Israel to work Allenby on a 24/7 basis.

After receiving Israel’s approval before the visit of the President of the United States Joe Biden to Israel last July and thanks to separate lobbying by the Moroccan government, the US announced that Israel would start operating Allenby at every hour starting on 30 September.

Israeli authorities later informed their American counterparts that they did not have the staffing capacity to meet the US deadline and instead proposed a six-day pilot program in October that would test the Israel Airports Authority’s ability to 24/7 operation. .

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides (C) at the Allenby crossing on April 2, 2023. (Embassy of Israel to the US)

The termination of the pilot program was also delayed but was successfully completed in November.

The Airport Authority then told the Biden administration that it would be ready to roll out the extended operating hours at Allenby in January, according to an Israeli official.

But that deadline was also missed, with the port authority struggling to hire enough staff in time. As a result, Biden officials were informed that the new start date would be April 2 – Sunday. However, instead of Allenby running 24/7 as promised. The port authority said Allenby would be open in 2012 during the week and from 8am to 3:30pm on Friday and Saturday.

Last week, Israel told the Biden administration it didn’t think it would be able to meet the deadline again — this time because of a planned strike by port authority staff demanding a pay raise, two Biden officials said. revealing that the US expressed its great displeasure at Israel’s inability to keep its word.

The message seems to have gotten through, as the Allenby port authority managed to open Sunday at 8 am for five full days of uninterrupted service, as promised.

Nides was present for the opening ceremony together with the head of the Israeli military liaison with the Palestinians, Major General Rassan Alian and the chairman of the Israel Airport Authority Jerry Gershon. Nides also walked all the way up to the border between Israel and Jordan and spoke briefly with a member of the Jordanian security forces.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides (R) at the Allenby crossing on April 2, 2023. (Embassy of Israel to the US)

Speaking to The Times of Israel on his return from Allenby, Nides expressed his satisfaction with Israel for seeing the matter through, despite the delay.

“I don’t want to overstate the importance of this. This is not peace in the Middle East, but it makes life a little easier for people, and it also has symbolic importance, so I was happy to do it,” he said, admitting that it took a significant amount of push forward. his

“But when you make a promise, you have to fulfill it, and that’s what I said [the Israelis],” Nides said.

Later on Sunday, the ambassador tweeted, “Big story! As of today, Allenby Bridge is now officially open 24/5. We kept [Biden’s] promise. This is a victory for both the Palestinians and the Israelis!”

Sunday’s development came days after four Israeli, Palestinian and American officials told The Times of Israel that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is yet to press ahead with a series of small measures to boost the Palestinian Authority. he promised to implement it before the holy month. Ramadan, which started last week.

In mid-February, Netanyahu’s office indicated that it would be lowering the so-called “blue tax” it charges the PA on fuel transfers from three percent to 1.5%; increase the percentage of revenue it transfers to Ramallah from the fees it collects from travelers at the Allenby border crossing; and to expand the list of tax-free imports that he facilitates on behalf of the PRA.

Illustrations: An Israeli soldier stands at the entrance to the Allenby border crossing, the main border crossing for Palestinians from the West Bank traveling to neighboring Jordan and beyond, Monday, March 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner )

The lack of follow-up is making the Biden administration increasingly worried as the PA’s financial state is at an all-time low, a senior US official told The Times of Israel last week. On Sunday, however, an Israeli official said the Netanyahu government would continue to implement the three promised measures by mid-April.

With Allenby’s promise fulfilled, Nides said he is now focused on implementing another measure to improve the Palestinian livelihood that he first publicly discussed more than a year ago – expanding 4G cellular coverage to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, which is only granted at the moment. 2G and 3G service respectively. This was also something that Biden announced during his trip to the Middle East last July.

The initiative has moved slowly, however, according to Israeli and US officials, but Nides said he was determined to achieve it in the coming months. “I want to put it on their phones by the end of the year.”

He is also working on getting funds from several Arab countries for the East Jerusalem Hospital Network that was promised last year. The US announced $100 million of its own funding during Biden’s visit and said the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia would match that amount with $25 million each. Since then, only the UAE has continued to grant it.

In addition, Nides revealed that he is working to get the Jenin Power Plant up and running after years of preparation and expressed his expectation that it would be ready to supply almost 50% of the electricity to the Palestinians by end of the year too.

You are a dedicated reader

That’s why we started The Times of Israel eleven years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we have not put up a pay wall. But because the journalism we do is expensive, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help our work by joining. The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREEas well as access exclusive content available to Times of Israel Community members only.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

Join our Community Join our Community Already a member? Sign in to stop seeing this

Leave a Comment