After US pressure, Allenby crossing to Jordan set to open at all hours on weekdays

Following pilot program, West Bank border to open to Palestinian travelers on expanded schedule starting in April, but diplomat says quota for buses to crossing to remain the same

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

File - people arrive on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)
File - people arrive on the Jordanian side of the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan on July 19, 2022. (Khalil Mazraawi/AFP)

The Allenby Crossing between the West Bank and Jordan will begin operating on a nearly full-time basis in April after the completion of a pilot program earlier this month that the Biden administration had pushed for to shrink wait times for Palestinians at the border.

In a letter last week obtained by The Times of Israel, the crossing’s director ordered Allenby staff to prepare to begin operating full-time from Sunday at 8 a.m. until Friday at 3:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The expanded schedule will launch on April 2 of next year.

The crossing is located near the West Bank city of Jericho, just north of the Dead Sea.

From November 6 to 10, a pilot program tested the crossing’s ability to run at all hours of the day after years of operating under more limited hours, which led to long lines for the almost exclusively Palestinian pedestrians.

Queues to cross into Jordan can last hours or up to an entire day, creating a headache for Palestinians, who have a difficult time receiving permits to fly out of Ben Gurion Airport. As a result, most fly in and out of Jordan’s Amman, but first must pay a series of fees to cross the border.

The roll-out of Allenby’s expanded hours was delayed several times, drawing the ire of the Biden administration, which announced over the summer that the crossing would begin permanently running 24/7 in September.

Israeli authorities initially notified their American counterparts that they didn’t have the staffing capacity to meet the US deadline and proposed the idea of a pilot program instead.

The Transportation Ministry announced that the trial would launch on October 24, only to also miss that start date when the chairman of the Airports Authority objected to a rollout in the middle of an election campaign. The Airports Authority directorate subsequently met and decided to move forward with the plan on November 6.

A senior Airports Authority official told The Times of Israel last week that the pilot had been successful while noting that very few Palestinians chose to use the crossing after midnight.

A Middle East diplomat said the expanded hours were a step in the right direction, but said that Israel has informed Jordan that the number of buses ferrying travelers to the crossing on both sides of the border would remain the same. Travelers must arrive at the crossing by bus, and Israel determines the number of buses that can operate the route.

The diplomat said that keeping the bus quota at the same level could defeat the purpose of the expanded hours since the crossing would not be able to accommodate more travelers. The buses also cannot depart until they are full, so the passengers may be forced to wait in the buses instead of at the crossing itself.

A US official also speaking on condition of anonymity said that the Biden administration would encourage Israel to fine-tune its operation at Allenby in the coming months.

The Airports Authority official said that it had launched a hiring spree in order to properly staff the crossing come April.

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