The Palestinian Authority is not excited about Israel’s offer to allow Palestinians to travel abroad through the Ramon Airport, located in the Timna Valley in southern Israel.
Musa Rahhal, spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Transport and Communications, said that the PA is officially opposed to the idea because it is a unilateral move on Israel’s part and “reinforces the policy of apartheid against the Palestinians.”
Palestinian sources, however, said that a final decision has not been taken on the matter yet. The sources added that Ramallah was not too enthusiastic about the idea.
"Israel failed to turn the Ramon Airport into an international terminal. Now the Israelis are offering us something that didn’t work for them. This reminds me of the coronavirus vaccines which Israel offered us because the expiration dates were nearing."PA Official
Residents of the West Bank who are not Israeli residents or citizens travel overseas via Jordan. Only a handful of senior Palestinian officials and their family members, who hold Israeli-issued VIP cards, are permitted to travel through Ben-Gurion Airport.
Rahhal told the Quds News Network that the PA had previously demanded that Israel hand over Jerusalem Airport (also known as Kalandiya Airport), which was closed after the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000 due to security concerns.
Rahhal said that the PA has also been demanding that Israel allow the Palestinians to build a new airport in the West Bank.
The spokesman claimed that Israel was trying to force all Arabs – Palestinian citizens and Arab-Israelis alike – to travel through Ramon Airport. All citizens of Israel – Jews and non-Jews alike – are permitted to travel through Ben-Gurion Airport and other Israeli-controlled border crossings.
Rahhal also claimed that the current overcrowding at the Allenby Bridge between Israel and Jordan was part of an Israeli scheme to force Palestinians to use Ramon Airport. In the past few weeks, thousands of Palestinian travelers have been stranded on the Jordanian side of Allenby Bridge because of unprecedented overcrowding and the limited hours of work at the border crossing.
Israel has agreed to open Allenby Bridge, which serves Palestinians from the West Bank, for 24 hours a day to solve the crisis. The new procedure, however, will go into effect in September.
Rahhal pointed out that the Palestinians were also opposed to the idea of using Ramon Airport for political reasons. The airport will remain under full Israeli sovereignty and without any Palestinian presence, he said.
The original agreement terms
Under the terms of the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, the PA has its own security and civilian representatives at the bridge and there will be maximum coordination between the two sides on matters of mutual concern.
A PA official in Ramallah said on Thursday that the Palestinian government was seeking to coordinate its position regarding Ramon Airport with the Jordanians.
The Jordanians, the official said, are apparently unhappy with the Israeli proposal because it would reduce the number of passengers using the kingdom’s airports and border crossings.
In addition, the official noted, Palestinians wishing to travel through Ramon Airport would be required first to apply for permits to enter Israel. Then, they would have to travel at least five hours from the West Bank to the airport, which is located near Eilat.
“Israel failed to the turn Ramon Airport into an international terminal,” the official claimed. “Now, the Israelis are offering us something that didn’t work for them. This reminds me of the coronavirus vaccines, which Israel offered us because the expiration dates were nearing.”
Palestinian political analyst Omar Assaf claimed that the Ramon Airport offer was in the context of the talk about “economic peace,” an idea that focuses on improving the Palestinian economy and the living conditions of the Palestinians while ignoring their political and national demands and aspirations.
Assaf told the Palestinian Khabar news agency that Israel was actually offering a bribe to the Palestinians.
“Operating the airport precludes any political demands, which means that the Palestinians would continue to travel through border crossings that are under Israeli sovereignty,” he said, adding that the PA leadership has rejected the Israeli offer.