Israel has delayed a pilot plan to allow West Bank Palestinians to fly out of the Ramon airport near Eilat, which had been scheduled to start this month.
The plan was part of a series of gestures Israel has made to the Palestinians with an eye to the Biden administration’s push to help ease their travel routes.
Israel for security reasons does not allow most West Bank Palestinians to travel out of Ben-Gurion Airport.
How are Palestinians getting to Eilat?
Palestinians who seek to go abroad have to exit the West Bank through the Allenby Bridge crossing, so they can fly out of the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman in neighboring Jordan.
The crossing is open from 8 a.m.-11:30 p.m. on Sunday-Thursday and from 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The limited hours plus congestion at the crossing make international travel particularly cumbersome for Palestinians.
Separately, it has also sought to open Ramon Airport to the Palestinians and had intended to provide shuttle buses from the West Bank to the terminal for Palestinians who passed a security check.
The Palestinian Authority had objected to the plan, noting that it preferred to see Israel restore the Atarot Airport on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which was shut down in 2000 at the start of the Second Intifada.
A revived airport would allow Palestinians to directly enter a terminal from Area A of the West Bank, thereby reducing security concerns. Atarot is also located next to Ramallah whereas the Ramon Airport is near the Egyptian border.
Under the terms of the initial plan, Palestinians would have access to two flights a week to Turkey, one to Antalya and the other to Istanbul. Each plane would have 220 seats.
Israel’s Airports Authority announced the delay, stating, “The special flights for the residents of Judea and Samaria which were scheduled to depart from Ramon Airport and which were supposed to be carried out with the foreign companies has been postponed. When a new date [for the plan] is chosen, we will update the media and the public.”