The Allenby Bridge border crossing between Israel and Jordan opened to passenger traffic 24 hours a day this week, on a pilot program, a step toward fulfilling a promise the Israeli government made to US President Joe Biden during his visit to Israel in July.
The pilot began on Sunday morning and will continue until Friday afternoon.
US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides visited the crossing early on Wednesday to hear an update on the pilot program. Nides spoke with Israel Airports Authority staff, who are operating the border crossing.
“I am delighted to be here at Allenby Bridge, in the middle of the night, to witness this crossing being open 24 hours a day,” Nides said. “I want to thank the director-general of the Airports Authority for making this possible. The opportunity for travelers to cross whenever they need to is good for Israelis and good for Palestinians. Trade and freedom of movement are the keys to peace. We hope this pilot is just the start – we look forward to working with the Israeli authorities on the next phase.”
Nides also said he would like to see efforts to ease and expand cargo shipping operations at the border crossing.
Israel repeatedly postponed the date on which it would open the Allenby crossing allowing West Bank Palestinians to travel abroad through Jordan, which was set for September, then pushed off until after the Jewish holidays to mid-October.
Most Palestinians in the West Bank are barred from traveling abroad through Ben-Gurion Airport. They exit the West Bank through the Allenby Bridge and fly abroad from the airport in Amman.
The crossing was previously open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. from Sunday to Thursday and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
The expansion of the crossing times was a priority for Washington, as well as Moroccan King Mohammed VI, who encouraged Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor) to extend the opening hours.
Reports surfaced last month that the chairman of the Airports Authority’s board of directors had raised concerns that the plan had implications for the elections and should be delayed until after voters head to the polls on November 1.
In addition, the authority had to deal with a manpower shortage. Ben-Gurion Airport has been short-staffed in the aftermath of the pandemic.
The IDF also has oversight at the Allenby crossing, given that it is in the Jordan Valley, which is under IDF military and civilian rule.
Michaeli said she was glad her ministry's efforts came to fruition.
"I thank the kingdoms of Jordan and Morocco and the US Ambassador for their important help on this matter," Michaeli said. "I support every step, especially at this time, that can advance freedom of movement and a safer and more prosperous future in our region."
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.