Truck carrying fruit leaves Kerem Shalom crossing point 390.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
While Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are stalemated, economic cooperation continues between the two sides with the Netherlands announcing this week it will supply two state-of-the art container scanners to facilitate Palestinian trade.
The scanners are to “promote the economic development of the Palestinian Authority through expanded trade flows, while safeguarding” Israel’s security, according to a joint agreement signed Sunday by Dutch Ambassador Caspar Veldkamp and Maj.-Gen. Eitan Dangot, the coordinator of government activities in the territories.
The first scanner will be installed at the Allenby Bridge to Jordan “as fast and efficiently” as possible, expected within six to nine months, and the second one – possibly at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza – at a later date.
In a unique form of cooperation, the scanners will be donated to and owned by the PA, but will be operated by Israel “to maintain and ensure” its security requirements.
According to a statement put out by the Dutch Embassy, the scanners will boost Palestinian trade by “reducing transit costs for businesses and increasing the volume and range of goods allowed through the crossings.” The Allenby Bridge scanner could increase the amount of trade flowing through the crossing by up to 33 percent, something that will “help the Palestinian economy grow,”the statement said.
Currently, if glass manufacturers in Hebron want to export pitchers abroad they must load them into boxes and onto wooden pallets that are then placed on trucks. The trucks go to the Allenby Crossing where each pallet is individually scanned at the site, and then loaded onto Jordanian trucks waiting on the other side of the border. These trucks then drive to Aqaba where the pallets are unloaded again, the boxes of pitchers taken out and then re-packed into containers for ship export.
Exporters complain that this significantly increases both their costs and the time it takes for their goods to get to market.
The re-packing itself into containers is an additional expense.
The new container scanners – which cost about $2.5 million each – will allow manufacturers to load their product directly into the containers at their factories, and the goods will not have to be touched again in shipment, reducing the risk of damage in handling, theft and exposure to the elements.
Since the scanners are expected to lead to greater volume of import and export into the West Bank, the project is also expected to raise additional tax revenue for the PA. The introduction of container scanners at Allenby could increase Palestinian trade by $35.5m. a year, which would yield the PA an additional $10.4m. a year in tax revenue, according to an estimate from the office of Quartet envoy Tony Blair, which was instrumental in brokering the deal.
Talks about putting container scanners into place have been ongoing for years.
Veldkamp said it was the “trust and friendship between Israel and the Netherlands” that was able to seal the deal at this time. “This benefits Palestinian economic development, and takes into account Israel’s security needs, which we really care about,” he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal announced the deal in Brussels on Monday at the monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers. The issue was discussed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte when they met last month in Holland. Rutte and Rosenthal previously discussed it with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.