The White House’s special representative to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt on Wednesday praised Tuesday’s launch of 3G mobile telecommunications services in the West Bank as a sign of the benefits of cooperation.
Greenblatt said the new services would empower entrepreneurship and innovation and open up new possibilities for communications.
“3G services are expected to provide a significant boost to the national economy, create jobs and generate much-needed revenues for the (Palestinian Authority),” he said. “In today’s globalized world, access to high-speed mobile services strengthens users’ connections to the global community.”
Greenblatt said the US government had worked closely with Israelis and Palestinians to facilitate the long-stalled launch of 3G, and would continue discussions “on facilitating more advanced technologies for both the West Bank and Gaza.”
In an apparent nod to the current crisis between Washington and Ramallah, and the reports of a total severance of ties since the December 6 recognition of Jerusalem, Greenblatt added: “The road is not always smooth, but 3G is one example of what is possible when we work together.”
Palestinians in the West Bank began receiving 3G mobile telecommunications services on Tuesday, after years of wrangling with the Israeli authorities.
The Jawwal and Wataniya firms began offering the service to their customers Tuesday morning, with Palestinians seeing the option appear on their phones for the first time.
Israel had previously blocked Palestinian mobile companies’ access to the necessary frequencies, citing security concerns. Officials suggest, for example, that high-speed mobile data could make it easier for Palestinian terrorists to communicate while reducing the risk of Israeli surveillance.
Third-generation services were originally launched in the early 2000s, and much of the world already has 4G technology, while 5G is expected in the next year.
Ammar Aker, chief executive of the Paltel communications company which owns Jawwal, told AFP it had been a decade of work to get Israel to agree to 3G.
“We launched 3G technically and commercially about midnight on Monday. This is a strategic step we have been waiting for more than 10 years. We hope it has a positive effect on the national communications (infrastructure) and economy.”
The ban on 3G remains in place in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
AFP contributed to this report.