Bennett unlikely to let Palestinians staff Allenby crossing after US request

PM Bennett unlikely to change the Palestinian presence at Allenby crossing, but he is working to improve their economic situation.

 Israeli soldiers stand guard near the entrance to Allenby Bridge, a crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank (photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)
Israeli soldiers stand guard near the entrance to Allenby Bridge, a crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is reviewing a US request to allow Palestinian Authority officials to join the staff at the Israeli side of the Allenby crossing with Jordan but does not currently plan on making changes.

A government source said on Thursday that relevant ministries are set to discuss a number of options, with Palestinian staff added to the Allenby crossing being one of them. This particular option was proposed to the Defense Ministry.

But Bennett is unlikely to allow a change to the sovereignty status or the Palestinian presence in the Allenby crossing, The Jerusalem Post has learned. However, he is seeking to take positive steps to improve the Palestinians’ economic situation.

The US made the request in the framework of seeking a broader package for the Palestinians, and for Israel to try to reduce tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region next month.

US officials such as Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr, and US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, have suggested gestures to Israeli officials in the Prime Minister’s Office – such as National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata and Diplomatic Adviser Keren Hajioff – as well as in the Foreign Ministry and Defense Ministry. Each ministry has been working on their assessments of the requests, to be discussed at a joint meeting ahead of Biden’s visit to Israel on July 13-14.

 Israeli soldiers stand guard near the entrance to Allenby Bridge, a crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun) Israeli soldiers stand guard near the entrance to Allenby Bridge, a crossing point between Jordan and the West Bank (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

A US diplomatic source said “about 1,000 ideas” were brought to Bennett’s office, and the Allenby crossing is one of them, but none have made any headway yet. The source cited the instability of Bennett’s government as well as public criticism of any proposals that have leaked – such as waiting until after Biden’s visit to demolish the home of the terrorist who killed three on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street in April – as obstacles.

Netanyahu reacts

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted following reports on the border crossing discussion that “after Bennett folded and postponed the demolition of the terrorist’s home, comes yet another concession.”

“For years, we opposed the dangerous Palestinian demand that would mean Palestinian sovereignty in the Jordan Valley,” Netanyahu wrote. “Even now, the answer must be sharp and clear: No. No to a Palestinian state, no to concessions, no to folding.”

"Even now, the answer must be sharp and clear: No. No to a Palestinian state, no to concessions, no to folding."

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

The status of the Jordan Valley has long been a major security issue for Israel, with defense figures and politicians from the Center and Right saying Israel must retain military control of the area. Netanyahu, as well as members of Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s party, promised to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley in their 2020 election campaigns.