The Quartet representatives are to visit Amman this week [May 18] to continue discussions with the Jordanian government on the upgrading of passage of goods through the Allenby Bridge border crossing [between Israel and Jordan], with the view of increasing the volume of goods passing through the bridge.
The Palestinian foreign trade is conducted for the most part with Israel. According to the Palestinian statistics, about 70% of Palestinian imports are from Israel or passing through Israel (totaling $4.7 billion). And the same is true for 80% of the Palestinian exports (amounting to $800 million).
This data has been for years a matter of concern for the Palestinian economy leaders. The latter are looking for ways to diversify the Palestinian foreign trade, and they thus seek to develop additional markets. In Israel, too, there is a sense of discomfort over the economic dependence of the Palestinians.
A survey conducted by the Quartet and the Israeli Ministry of Regional Cooperation shows that if a large container scanning system is installed at the Allenby Bridge, the volume of goods passing through the bridge will increase by 30%. Such container scanners operate already at the Haifa and Ashdod sea ports.
Allenby border crossing: important for the connection with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states
However, even more than the Haifa and Ashdod sea ports, the Allenby Bridge is of essential importance for the Palestinians, as it serves as the crossing point for the best part of their foreign trade with the Eastern Arab countries — primarily the wealthy Gulf states and Jordan. Israelis are not allowed passage through the Allenby Bridge, and it exclusively serves the Palestinians.
So far, there is no container scanner at the Allenby Bridge. Therefore, only trucks carrying goods platforms, but no containers, can pass through the Allenby border crossing. This creates a problem because international companies, especially those operating from the Gulf states, insist on the transportation of goods in accordance with modern standards of container packaging, which ensure more efficient transportation.
On the whole, some 1,400 trucks currently pass through the bridge each month. Most of them carry imported goods (raw materials, household items and food products). Only a few of the trucks passing through the bridge carry exported goods (agricultural products and stones for building). In addition, the Palestinians import — through a special Allenby Bridge border terminal — used cars, for which there is great demand in the West Bank market.
In Palestinian ownership; operation by Israel
Two years ago, the Quartet representatives Tony Blair and the Dutch foreign minister visited the Allenby Bridge border crossing. The latter — prompted by then-Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, and in light of his recommendation — announced that the Dutch government was prepared to donate about NIS 8 million to NIS 9 million [between about $2,300,000 and $2,600,000] for the purchase of a container scanning system, to facilitate the passage of goods through the Allenby Bridge.
However, a further investment of about NIS 35 million [about $10,120,000] was required for installing the system. In October 2013, on the initiative of Minister of Regional Cooperation Silvan Shalom, the Israeli government made a decision to fund and implement the infrastructure works required for the installation of the system. The scanning system is to be in the Palestinian Authority ownership, while its operation will be in the hands of Israel.
The bodies in charge of the scanning system installation and the development works of the Allenby Bridge border crossing are scheduled to complete the project in about two years. At the same time, the Quartet representatives are acting to help the Jordanian ministries upgrade the passage arrangements on the Jordanian side of the bridge as well as in the port of Aqaba, which plays a significant role in the passage of [Palestinian] trade.
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