US Pres. Joe Biden with Palestinian Authority chair Mahmoud Abbas
US Pres. Joe Biden with Palestinian Authority chair Mahmoud AbbasFlash 90

The US pressured Israel to open Ben Gurion International Airport to Palestinian Authority (PA) Arabs - and the agreement to allow them to use Ramon Airport was a compromise between the sides, Israel Hayom reported.

According to Israel Hayom, ahead of US President Joe Biden's visit to Israel, and as part of Biden's desire to present Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas with achievements, the US government pressured Israel to solve the issue of PA Arabs' travel abroad.

Currently, PA Arabs are not allowed to fly from Ben Gurion Airport, and they instead cross from Israel into Jordan via the Allenby Bridge, and from there fly to their destinations. Since the coronavirus pandemic, the Allenby Bridge has been overwhelmed with traffic: It is estimated that over a million people have crossed it since January, and in many cases it is congested and there are lengthy delays.

Last week, Transportation Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor) announced that brokering by Morocco and the US led to understandings with the Palestinian Authority regarding expanding operations of the bridge to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so as to help ease the congestion.

At the same time, the expanded hours provide only a partial solution: Israel Hayom reported that the US aimed to reach an agreement under which Israel would open Ben Gurion to PA Arabs, and it seems that the agreement to allow them to fly out of Ramon Airport is a compromised reached by the two sides.

Israel Hayom also noted the timing of the announcement, and that it may be connected to Saudi Arabia's agreement to open its airspace to Israeli airlines, as well as to the expected announcement next year regarding direct flights from Ben Gurion to Mecca, which would serve Muslims making their hajj.