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PA, Israel agree to allow PA to manage international postal services

Sept. 4, 2016 5:41 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 4, 2016 6:35 P.M.)
Yoav Mordechai and Hussein al-Sheikh sign memorandum of understanding. September 4, 2016
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel on Sunday signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at improving postal services between Israel and the PA, which determined that international postal services between the occupied Palestinian territory and the rest of the world would from now on be handled exclusively by the PA through the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

A spokesperson for the Israeli government’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said in a statement on Sunday that the memorandum was signed by the head of COGAT Yoav Mordechai and head of the PA’s civil affairs committee Hussein al-Sheikh.

It remained unclear however, how having international mail directed through the Allenby border crossing, which Israel controls, will ensure one hundred percent PA authority over postal services.

Until now, all mail to and from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has been sent through Israel and processed by Israeli authorities.

The PA and Israeli government had signed an agreement in 2008 which would have enabled the PA to have direct postal relations, but the agreement had yet to be put into effect.

In April 2011, the PA threatened to stop sending and receiving international mail through Israel, in protest of Israeli failure to implement the 2008 agreement.

The Jerusalem Post quoted the then Palestinian Minister of Communications Mashhour Abu-Daqqa as saying that Israel was “deliberately disrupting Palestinian mail services,” causing Palestinian postal services losses of over $200,000 a month.

The Israeli newspaper also quoted Mahmoud Diwan, who was the director general of the Palestinian Communications Ministry at the time, as saying that Israeli security checks on Palestinian outgoing and incoming mail made sending and receiving mail from abroad virtually impossible.

"We have no daily contact with the Israeli side," Diwan said, adding that the PA "sends a taxi at our expense to Jerusalem to pick up mail sacks, but we have no idea what we will receive. The mail arrives in Ramallah with no attached documents or certificates."

A spokeswoman for the government-owned Israeli Postal Company said at the time that “on our side, there are no delays – we transfer it the day we get it. We have no reason to hold on to it.”

Contrary to Diwan’s accounts of the postal service process, the spokeswoman reportedly said that Israel did not censor mail going to the occupied Palestinian territory, and that only post sent to and from the besieged Gaza Strip was subject to special security checks, as the PA no longer controlled the coastal enclave following the election of a Hamas government in 2006.

Despite having a formal governing body in the occupied West Bank in the form of the Palestinian Authority, Israel controls all borders surrounding the territory, with military checkpoints and border crossings between Jordan and the West Bank, as well as between the West Bank and Israel, due to the lack of a resolution on Palestinian statehood and on the decades long Israeli occupation of the territory.

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