(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz today (28 July) visited the Allenby Border Terminal in order to examine the implementation of the 8 July 2009 decision of the Ministerial Committee on Improving the Economic Situation of the Palestinian Residents of Judea and Samaria, which the Prime Minister chairs, to expand the Terminal's operating hours for Palestinian goods.
Prime Minister Netanyahu instructed the responsible officials to also expand the Terminal's operating hours for the passage of people from Israel to Jordan, for a two-month pilot period.
Remarks by PM Netanyahu:
We all desire the same thing, we all desire peace, we all desire peace and security. We are here because we wish to open the road to peace, in both senses of the word. Therefore, we are first of all opening the Allenby Bridge here, and during my tour today, I asked that the operating hours be extended until midnight for both those in cars and pedestrians, as the hours for transferring containers and goods were recently extended.
We wish to ease the situation at the terminals, not at the expense of security, but subject to the IDF's security branches' security instructions - to the greatest extent possible - to enable the flow of people, goods, hikers, tourists and families. This reinforces the peace. This is not a substitute for the diplomatic process, but assists it.
You are aware that there are very large growth rates in Judea and Samaria in the Palestinian Authority. It is impressive that this is one of the largest growth rates in the world. We want it to be even larger. Why? Because we think that this is a good thing. It is good for them, it is good for us and it is good for peace.
At the same time, we are making progress with the Americans. Today, I spoke for a long time - two and a half hours - in a one-on-one meeting with George Mitchell, the USA's Special Envoy to the Middle East, and we had a very good conversation. We are trying to bridge the differences and progress, and I think that we are on the right path.
We are also interested in extending the peace to a regional peace. Therefore, we are discussing regional projects with Jordan, with other countries, and certainly with the Palestinians. We are making progress in these areas. This is our policy but we need to examine it at a grassroots level in order to ensure that it is being implemented.
I am delighted to witness this gathering here today with the Allenby Terminal people, and to see that matters are actually being implemented in the correct spirit. This spirit is to advance peace by easing restrictions, without it coming at the expense of security.
Keep up the important work!
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We came here to ensure that the policy of opening the terminal is being implemented. We adopted a resolution during the Ministerial Committee which took place two weeks ago, to extend the operating hours for goods at the Allenby Bridge. Today I would like to, and I already managed to exchange a few words on the topic with the Minister of Transportation and with Ovadia, carry out a pilot to extend the terminal's operating hours for pedestrians. I propose that we examine this for 60 days, and then we will be able to determine whether there is demand for this, and what the extension requires.
Our first objective is simply to increase and expand the terminal's functionality and opening-hours at the Allenby Bridge. I must tell you that this is part of the general policy to make the lives of the Palestinians easier, and also to alleviate the situation for the Palestinian economy. This approach stems from an understanding that the diplomatic process can be greatly assisted by the economic process. At the end of the day, it comes down to actions, not words, and actions are here on the ground. Therefore, I wish to thank you for your cooperation and for what is yet to be done here.
At the same time, we have also removed barriers - dirt barriers - and we are trying to potentially remove the most difficult barriers of all - the bureaucratic barriers for business activities. I asked Minister Silvan Shalom to assist in and lead the process of simplifying and facilitating a great number of these projects, from our side. I must tell you that he is carrying this out vigorously, and I ask you, Silvan, to provide a simple description as there are many representatives present here, and part of this also relates to this barrier.