First Palestinian business people can enter Israel in own cars since 2000 – Arab-Israeli Conflict

Israeli soldiers check cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank City of Jericho.
(photo credit:REUTERS)

A limited number of Palestinian business people received permits to enter Israel in their personal, Palestinian-plated cars, a Palestinian official said on Tuesday.

“A total of 270 business people were granted permission to drive their cars into Israel,” Palestinian Authority Civil Affairs Ministry Spokesman Walid Wahdan told The Jerusalem Post.

Palestinian business people have not driven their personal cars into Israel since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, when Israel banned their entry as a part of its crackdown on the largely armed uprising. The intifada ended more than a decade ago.

“This is very important for us,” Jamal al-Nimr, a Palestinian businessman from Ramallah, who was granted a permit, told the Post. “Time is money for us. We need to be able to move around quickly, especially when we travel to Israel to meet with Israeli businessmen, authorities, and others.”

Nimr and many other Palestinian business people work closely with Israeli business people to import goods to the Palestinian territories and undertake other transactions.

According to Nimr, the permits will also save major costs for business people.

“Before, I had to hire a chauffeur at the cost of 800-1000 Shekels a day,” Nimr remarked. “Now, all I have to pay for is the fuel.”

Wahdan said that after Israel approved a proposal to allow a limited number of business people to enter Israel in their own cars, the Federation of Palestinian Chambers of Commerce chose 270 business people to apply for permits.

The PA Civil Affairs Ministry then forwarded the list to the Coordinator of Government Affairs in the Territories (COGAT), which approved it, according to Wahdan.

COGAT, the branch of the Defense Ministry which is responsible for coordinating civil, economic, and security affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, was not immediately available to comment.

The permits for the business people were approved almost exactly two years after Israel approved similar permits for 100 Palestinian doctors, employed in Israel.

However, the businessmen have to wait until the end of Passover next week to enter Israel, as the IDF has banned Palestinians except for humanitarian cases from coming to Israel during the holiday. The IDF holds that the risk of attacks on Israelis increases during holidays.

Wahdan added that he hopes additional permits will be provided to other Palestinians who work in Israel.

“We always are calling for more Palestinians to be granted [such] permits,” Wahdan said.

Tens of thousands of Palestinians travel by public transportation from their homes to Israel daily to work, visit family, attain medical care, and for other reasons.

The permits for the business people come two weeks after Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is arranging a number of “goodwill gestures” for the Palestinians at the behest of US President Donald Trump.

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