An interesting little moment in history: Russia’s President Dimitri Medvedev crosses from Jordan via the Allenby Bridge and visits the West Bank City of Jericho to pay a call on the Palestinian Authority. He does not go to Ramallah, and he does not go to Israel.
Simultaneously, thousands of Orthodox Christians have gathered in Jericho to celebrate the baptism of Christ along the Jordan River.
Haaretz reported that “Medvedev drove into the West Bank in a convoy from Amman airport in Jordan, crossing over the historic Allenby Bridge in an unusual route for a head of state that was dictated by an Israeli foreign ministry strike, which had forced him to cancel the Israel leg of his trip. Officials said they could not remember when a visitor of that level had used the Allenby crossing, which was shut down to normal traffic for the occasion. The crossing is controlled by Israeli immigration and security. Medvedev drew applause from Palestinians when he noted that ‘this is the first visit of a Russian president to Palestine not united with a visit to another country’ — a clear reference to Israel which would normally have been his first stop. Russia is a partner of the United States, European Union and United Nations in ‘the Quartet’ of international powers overseeing Middle East peace negotiations. A number of former Soviet bloc east European states that are now in the EU also recognized Palestine in 1988. But the United States and west European governments do not. Quartet foreign ministers were due to meet next month in Munich to discuss ways to revive the Middle East peace process”. This is posted here.
The Jerusalem Post said here that Medvedev “stopped short” of endorsing the 1967 borders…
The New York Times reported that “Mr. Medvedev, on his first trip to the area as president, was scheduled to visit Israel as well, but that part of his itinerary had to be postponed because of a strike by employees of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Foreign Ministry officials, striking for more pay and better conditions, said this month that they were unable to prepare for the planned visit” … In Jericho, Mr. Medvedev told reporters that Russia fully supported ‘the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent, territorially contiguous and viable state with its capital in East Jerusalem’. He said Russia’s position “remains unchanged,” referring to the Soviet Union’s support for the Palestinian declaration of independence of 1988, which was issued by Yasir Arafat in Algiers”. This is posted here.
However, because he travelled in and out of the occupied Palestinian West Bank, the Allenby Bridge near Jericho was closed all day, by Israeli decision.
Daoud Kuttab wrote: “Even though President Medvedev is probably only going to spend a few minutes crossing the bridge (compared to hours that locals spend) and at most an hour or more at this remote Jordan Valley location, the orders were made to close the bridge an entire day…
Kuttab’s complaint about the day-long closure of the Allenby Bridge continues: “Until sometime late on Monday morning very few people knew about this decision. I was in Copenhagen when I noticed in an email, an item on a daily security report that I get from AMAN, a Palestinian NGO, that the Allenby Bridge will be closed from 7am to 7 pm on Tuesday because of the visit of the Russian President. I called my office in Amman and asked a journalist to check the story out. Mohammad Khatib the vigil spokesman of the Jordanian police, whose office usually issues reports about such decisions, had no information. The director of the Jordanian was unavailable in the morning but the head of the PR department at the Jordanian side said that he had heard something to the effect but that no declaration had been publicly made. Later in the day, General Jamal Badour from the Jordanian police and the director of the bridge confirmed that the Israelis were planning to close the bridge because of the visit of the Russian official. He stated that while Jordan’s side is always open, that if the Israelis close their side, the bridge is in effect will be closed open only from 7am to 7 pm. An announcement made later in the day which appeared in some of the dailies noted that the bridge will be open from 7pm to 10pm. A couple of thousand Palestinians and other cross the Jordan River daily. While Jordanians and foreigners can use other crossing points and can fly between Tel Aviv and Amman’s Queen Alia Airport, Palestinians have no other outlet except this singular crossing point. Palestinians wishing to travel anywhere in the world have no choice but cross using this bridge. If you have an afternoon flight, for example, you would leave Tuesday morning thus having enough time to make your plane without having to stay another day. If you are arriving during the day from abroad you would take a taxi directly to the bridge. For the Israeli army, this decision is rather insignificant. Who care about Palestinians and their travel plans. Had the Russian president or any other official wanted to visit Lydda, Ben Gurion Airport would not have been closed for 12 hours. If a visiting dignitary wanted to dedicate a location near the Haifa port, no one would think of closing the Haifa port for 12 hours. But this is not an internal Israeli issue where there is accountability of decisions. This is a decision by a military power affecting the affairs of a population under its control. Who care what they think? Even neighbouring countries like Jordan, are only informed of such a decision at a very late state. No one in the Israeli army thinks of making a mutual decision … In the last years of the 20th century, the Palestinian Authority officials were posted at the bridge and were involved in decisions regarding hours and conditions of the bridge. And while the Palestinian Authority has meticulously carried out its security obligations, the Israelis have refused to allow a return to the pre 2000 status throughout the occupied territories as well as on the bridge terminals leaving the Israeli army solely in charge”. This is published here.