The Allenby Bridge crossing on the Israeli-Jordanian border will remain open 24 hours a day for the transfer of goods as part of the government's effort to ease the daily life of Palestinians residing in the West Bank.
The decision, which was reached Wednesday during a meeting of a ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom, is also aimed at promoting a number of joint economic ventures with the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Until now the Allenby crossing would close its gates at 8 pm. Unlimited availability would foster an increase in the amount of goods transferred from Jordan to the PA, and the Israeli government contends that an increase in the transfer of goods would significantly improve the Palestinian economy.
Shalom, who is also minister for the development of the Negev and the Galilee, said the decision shows "major progress that will assist in the implementation of (the joint projects) and promote economic cooperation with the Palestinians."
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon told Ynet, "The initiative proves to the international community that Israel
is willing to ease restrictions on the Palestinian population, especially with regards to the opening of the crossings.
"However," the minister added, "the Palestinians must come to their senses and cooperate to promote ventures that are conducive to their welfare, not only those that are short term, but also the long-term projects."
The ministerial committee convened to discuss four key projects. One of the projects being promoted is a pilgrimage site along the banks of the Jordan River, which, if implemented, will boost the PA's economy by increasing the flow of foreign currency. South Korea, which is home to some 15 million Christians, has expressed interest in the project.
Another project, which is backed by Germany, involves the construction of an industrial park north of Jenin in the West Bank. Israel and the PA have been planning another industrial park in Bethlehem, while the fourth joint project will see the establishment of an industrialized agricultural zone north of Jericho. This project is being backed financially by Japan.
Minister Shalom briefed his fellow cabinet members on the projects, and said the barriers that are delaying their completion can be removed in order to promote economic peace by building a relationship with the Palestinians "from the ground up".
Minister Ayalon presented the Foreign Minister's position, according to which the Palestinians are at fault for the delay in the projects' implementation and are not living up to their obligations.