WASHINGTON – Israel will open the Allenby Bridge border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan to allow around-the-clock access for a pilot period beginning October 24, nearly one month after the target date announced by U.S. President Joe Biden during his July visit to Israel.
“We welcome news that Allenby/King Hussein Bridge will be open 24/7 for a pilot period beginning October 24,” the U.S. Office of Palestinian Affairs said Wednesday, adding that “we and [the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem] continue to engage the government of Israel to increase efficiency & accessibility to the bridge for the benefit of Palestinians, as [Biden] said in July.”
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The move was part of a series of measures Biden announced while visiting the West Bank, including a $316 million aid package, aimed among other initiatives at improving Palestinians’ daily lives and reviving U.S.-Palestinian ties. Palestinian officials, meanwhile, dismissed these steps at half-measures meant to distract from the lack of diplomatic progress toward a two-state solution.
The decision to open the Allenby Bridge crossing 24 hours a day, seven days a week is intended to ease travel by Palestinians, as the crossing between the West Bank and Jordan allows Palestinians to travel abroad via the international airport in Amman. A working group will meanwhile assess the use of biometric passports within the next month, as well as the establishment of a Palestinian Authority presence at the crossing.
U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides thanked both the Transportation and Defense Ministries, as well as the Prime Minister's Office, the Israeli military's Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories and the Israeli Airport Authority. "It's worth the investment to get to 24/7 access & will make a real difference in people's lives," he said.
The crossing is currently open between 8:00 A.M. and 11:30 P.M. on weekdays and 8:00 A.M. to 3:30 PM on weekends. Palestinians constitute the vast majority of those using the crossing, as it is very difficult for them to obtain permits to travel via Ben-Gurion International Airport, forcing them to encounter hours- and days-long waiting periods while being required to pay additional fees.
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Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli had been working with Moroccan officials alongside U.S. and Palestinian teams during the past several months to find a way to keep the crossing open around the clock.
Morocco played a key role in the Israeli decision to give Palestinians around-the-clock access to the crossing, a senior U.S. administration official told Haaretz, signaling the first instance in which an Arab country party to the Abraham Accords has used its influence to mediate between Israelis and Palestinians to produce a significant policy change.
The move was set to go into effect by the end of September, though Israeli officials warned it would miss the deadline due to a shortage of qualified workers and infighting between the transportation and defense ministries on overpromising and under-delivering on commitments made to the Biden administration. U.S. officials, meanwhile, pushed Israel to meet its commitment as both a gesture to the Biden administration and to the Palestinians.