Israel considers allowing Palestinians to fly overseas from Negev desert airport
Israel is considering allowing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to fly abroad via its Ramon airport in the Negev desert, according to state broadcaster Kan, as Washington pushes for economic reforms amid US President Joe Biden's Middle East visit.
If approved, Palestinians residing in the West Bank will no longer need to cross the border to Jordan to fly overseas.
The plan is backed by Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz, and is being worked on as "a gesture towards the Palestinians as a part of US President Joe Biden's visit", Kan reported.
Palestinians would be shuttled from the West Bank to Ramon airport via Wadi Araba, an Israel-Jordan border crossing, Kan said.
For the plan to be implemented, Palestine would have to stop its measures against Israel at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, according to the state broadcaster.
Israeli official Ghassan Alyan, coordinator of Tel Aviv's operations in the Palestinian territories said that the plan has yet to be approved, Arabi 21 reported.
In March 2021, the ICC opened a probe into possible war crimes committed by Israel and Palestinian armed groups following a request by the Palestinians, who were granted a non-member observer status in the UN General Assembly and joined the court in 2015.
The Palestinian authorities have also referred the killing of veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli sniper fire in May to the ICC.
Biden is to make "significant announcements" after meeting Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem on Friday, the penultimate day of his Middle East visit, a senior US official said during a briefing with reporters on Wednesday.
Palestinian officials have expressed disappointment in Biden's apparent focus on economic rather than diplomatic issues.
They also urged the US to help tackle the root of the Israeli occupation rather than throwing financial subsidies for temporary relief
In another bid for economic change, Biden is set to announce that Palestinian cellular companies in the West Bank and Gaza will be allowed to connect to fourth-generation networks by the end of 2023, the Times of Israel reported a senior administration official as saying Wednesday.
But PA Communications Minister Ishaq Sidr told the Israeli outlet that the announcement, which he said had not been coordinated with Ramallah, sounded like an empty promise.
"I’ve been [a] minister for over three years, and all we've heard is that 4G is going to happen," Sidr said. "All we hear are promises. We need to see something on the ground."
The senior US official indicated that the process was only in its infant stages.
The West Bank only gained access to 3G in 2017, while the Gaza Strip is currently operating on mere 2G connectivity.
Israel, however, is upgrading from 4G to 5G and are ensuring their illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank are also being upgraded.
Israel controls Palestinian frequencies and telecom infrastructure and limits their mobile internet speeds.