Palestinian are pawns in the Ramon Airport fiasco - opinion

Just as Palestinians have been threatened and criticized for taking higher-paying jobs in settlements, so too Palestinians are being threatened if they fly out of Ramon Airport.

 PALESTINIANS ARE being threatened if they fly out of Ramon Airport, according to the Palestinian transportation minister (photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)
PALESTINIANS ARE being threatened if they fly out of Ramon Airport, according to the Palestinian transportation minister
(photo credit: MOSHE SHAI/FLASH90)

Last month, Israel agreed to ease the crowded border crossing between the West Bank and Jordan by opening Eilat’s Ramon Airport to Palestinians. 

The new plan would allow Palestinians with valid permits to fly out of Eilat rather than making a cumbersome journey to fly out of Amman’s airport ,where Palestinian families often have extraordinary waiting times both in and out of Jordan, having to pass through an Israeli check, Palestinian check and a Jordanian check. Additionally, Palestinians are forced to pay a fee at the Amman airport.

But instead of welcoming the change intended to ease the lives of Palestinians, both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have come out against the (mutually agreed upon) plan because it involves “normalization” with Israel. Once again we see that not only are the Palestinian leaders more concerned with optics than the well-being of their own people, but Jordan is too. 

Palestinian Authority rejects deal it negotiated

In the case of the PA, the idea that it opposes such a deal is patently absurd given that it’s the one who negotiated with Israel on the issue in the first place. Yet once again, once it is public that the Palestinian leaders are working with Israel to improve something in the lives of innocent Palestinians, the PA switches sides and not only criticizes the efforts of Israel, but threatens to punish Palestinians who take advantage of eased restrictions.

Just as Palestinians have been threatened and criticized for taking higher-paying jobs in settlements, so too Palestinians are being threatened if they fly out of Ramon Airport, at least according to Palestinian Transportation Minister Assem Salem, who came out publicly against the new initiative. Among the punitive measures the Palestinian government is discussing is a refusal to renew Palestinian passports for any Palestinian who flies out of Ramon.

 A plane is reflected in the facade of the Ramon International Airport after an inauguration ceremony for the new airport, just outside the southern Red Sea resort city of Eilat, Israel January 21, 2019.  (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun) A plane is reflected in the facade of the Ramon International Airport after an inauguration ceremony for the new airport, just outside the southern Red Sea resort city of Eilat, Israel January 21, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)

Furthermore, Palestinian travel companies, which saw a massive influx of requests to travel abroad through Ramon Airport, have also been “warned” by the Palestinian government not to assist Palestinians with traveling abroad through Israel.  

Another factor pushing the PA to sabotage the Ramon initiative is that Jordan is fiercely against it, but not because they care about Palestinians. Amman airport has become a hub for international travel for Palestinians, with approximately 3 million Palestinians traveling every year through Queen Alia International Airport. This occurs despite the fact there are endless complaints about how Palestinians are treated by the Jordanians themselves. 

In response to the announcement about Ramon Airport, Jordan harshly condemned it, claiming it damages Jordanian economic interests and also leads to “normalizing” Israel. This, of course, is highly ironic given that Jordan has an existing peace treaty with Israel.

Additionally, social media was filled with complaints from angry Jordanians about how the Ramon Airport initiative normalizes Israel. On Al Jazeera, activists claimed that to fly out of Ramon Airport was “treason and a stabbing in the back of Jordan for all the positions it took with the Palestinian people in defending their just cause.”

However, the evidence is clear – Jordan doesn’t care about what’s best for the Palestinians. Instead, they care about what’s best for them economically, even if it makes life harder and more expensive for the Palestinians. Until this initiative, Jordan had enjoyed a monopoly on Palestinian travel, enabling them to charge exorbitant fees and provide slow, inefficient services from the Allenby crossing to Amman’s airport.

A Jordanian source found that the fees to Jordan are triple what they would be for flying out of Ramon Airport. Yet rather than reduce their prices, Jordan is casting the blame on Israel and preying on nationalist tensions to demonize the Israelis – who in this case are only trying to help

And that’s the real reason for this uproar, and it will continue to be as long as Palestinian leaders and other leaders in the Arab world continue to pay lip service to the self-sabotaging anti-normalization campaign. 

Palestinians are once again being used as pawns by not only the Jordanians but by their own leaders.

The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative LLC and a human rights activist.