Israeli and Palestinian officals demonstrated on Tuesday that despite diplomatic turbulence, cooperation between the two sides continues, as they attended the inauguration of a scanning facility at the Allenby Crossing aimed at enhancing commercial ties.
The new installation is designed to facilitate commercial activity at the crossing while improving customs inspections.
The ongoing increase in the scale of Palestinian Authority imports and exports through the Allenby Crossing led to a government decision to build — and invest tens of millions of shekels in — the scanning facility. The Dutch government contributed the scanner itself to the PA. The Israel Tax Authority led the work and was responsible for building and operating the expanded installation, which can handle all types of merchandise, whether in containers or not.
The scanning facility will double the number of containers that can be inspected from 100 to 200 daily, may be operated in all weather conditions, will allow for high level of safety, and will interface with Airports Authority systems, which will expedite the release of merchandise. The facility’s rapid new processes will facilitate the transport of goods requiring refrigeration (for example), for which processing time is critical.
A bevy of officials were in attendance for the first high-level gathering of Israelis and Palestinians since U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Yerushalayim as Israel’s capital on December 6.
Participants included: Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon; Deputy Finance Minister Rabbi Yitzhak Cohen; Israel Tax Authority Director Moshe Asher; PA Economy Minister Abir Ouda; Airports Authority Deputy Director General Shlomo Oren; Israel Customs Administration Director Avi Arditti; Land Crossings Customs Director Ofir Zilberman; Deputy Netherlands Ambassador to Israel Maurits Verhijden; PA Crossings Director Nazmi Mahana and State Employees Union Chairman Ariel Yaacobi, as well as — inter alia — representatives from the Jordanian government, the PA, European embassies, the U.S. Embassy, the U.N. and the Quartet.
Also participating were representatives of the many agencies involved in various aspects of the project, including the Airports Authority, the Regional Cooperation Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
Kahlon and Ouda cut the ribbon together.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said, “I came to the Finance Ministry following a prolonged stalemate in Israel–PA relations. We decided to take responsibility and advance several joint projects. The project that we are dedicating today is an example of a small thing leading to a big change. We have many plans for continued economic cooperation with the PA.”
Kahlon also confirmed media reports on Monday that said he would be meeting with the PA prime minister: “On Sunday, I am due to meet with PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, and we intend to continue advancing several joint projects. This week I met with Jason Greenblatt who strongly supports moving things forward. We view Jason Greenblatt and the U.S. as important, fair, principal and the only mediators in advancing regional cooperation.”
The event was of a ceremonial nature, and it did not appear that the Israeli and Palestinian officials held any substantive meetings there on Tuesday.