For first time in 17 years, some Palestinian business people can enter Israel in their own cars

Palestinian business people have not driven their personal cars into Israel since the start of the Second Intifada, over a decade ago.

April 11, 2017 18:18
2 minute read.

Israeli soldiers check cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank City of Jericho. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A limited number of Palestinian business people have received permits to enter Israel in their Palestinian-plated vehicles, a Palestinian Authority official said on Tuesday.

“A total of 270 business people were granted permission to drive their cars into Israel,” PA Civil Affairs Ministry spokesman Walid Wahdan told The Jerusalem Post.

Palestinian business people have not been allowed to drive their personal cars into Israel since the start of the second intifada in 2000, when Israel banned their entry as a part of its crackdown on the largely armed uprising. The intifada is considered to have ended more than a decade ago.

“This is very important for us,” Jamal al-Nimr, a Palestinian businessman from Ramallah, who was granted a permit, told the Post.

“Time is money for us,” Nimr said. “We need to be able to move around quickly, especially when we travel to Israel to meet with Israeli businessmen, authorities and others.”

Nimr and many other Palestinian business people work closely with Israeli business people to import goods to the Palestinian territories and undertake other transactions.

According to Nimr, the permits will also dramatically cut expenses. “Before, I had to hire a chauffeur at the cost of NIS 800-NIS 1,000 a day,” he said. “Now all I have to pay for is the fuel.”

The PA’s Wahdan said that after Israel approved a proposal to allow a limited number of business people to enter Israel in their own cars, the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce chose 270 to apply for permits. The PA Civil Affairs Ministry forwarded the list to the Coordinator of Government Affairs in the Territories (COGAT) unit, which approved it, according to Wahdan.

COGAT, the branch of the Defense Ministry responsible for coordinating civil, economic and security affairs in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, was not immediately available for comment.

The permits for the business people were approved almost exactly two years after Israel approved similar permits for 100 Palestinian doctors employed in Israel. However, the businessmen will have to wait until the end of Passover next week to enter, as the IDF has banned all Palestinians from entering Israel except for humanitarian cases during the holiday. According to the IDF, the attacks on Israelis increase during holidays.

Wahdan added that he hoped additional permits would be issued to other Palestinians who work in Israel. “We always are calling for more Palestinians to be granted [such] permits,” he said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians travel daily by public transportation from their homes to Israel to work, visit family, obtain medical care and for other reasons.

The permits for the business people come two weeks after Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was arranging a number of goodwill gestures for the Palestinians at the behest of US President Donald Trump.

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