Israel has postponed a plan to allow Palestinians from the occupied West Bank to fly to Turkiye from the Ramon Airport in southern Israel, a mere day before the first flight was set to proceed.
Earlier this month, the Israel Airports Authority announced that Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank would be able to travel on Turkish-operated flights to the destinations of Antalya and Istanbul from the Ramon Airport situated near the Red Sea city of Eilat. The first of those flights were set to take off today, on 22 August.
According to the Times of Israel newspaper, however, the Authority yesterday released a statement saying that the plan had been delayed, and that a new date would later be set and announced. The statement did not provide any reason for the postponement.
The initial plan proved to be controversial after officials in the West Bank city of Ramallah rejected it. According to them, the plan was not discussed and coordinated with the Palestinian Authority (PA), and it bypasses and neglects the Palestinian people’s right to a sovereign airport of their own.
Last month, however, Israeli media reports stated that the plan would be conditional upon the PA withdrawing its lawsuits against Tel Aviv at the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as conditional upon “political calmness”.
The Ramon Airport – which opened three years ago – has struggled to attract much international attention and business, which was reportedly the reason why the Israelis resorted to allowing West Bank Palestinians to use it.
According to a Palestinian official who talked to the Jerusalem Post, “Israel failed to turn Ramon Airport into an international terminal. Now, the Israelis are offering us something that didn’t work for them. This reminds me of the coronavirus vaccines, which Israel offered us because the expiration dates were nearing.”
Currently, it is difficult for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank to travel internationally, primarily due to the fact that they are forbidden – apart from PA officials and their families, at times – to use Israel’s major Ben Gurion Airport near the capital, Tel Aviv. Their only passage out of the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel is to travel across the border into neighbouring Jordan, through a border crossing in which they often have to wait for at least hours in difficult conditions.