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PA, Israel agreement allowing PA to manage international postal services to take effect after Eid

Sept. 8, 2016 2:21 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 8, 2016 2:22 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A recently signed agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) aimed at improving Palestinian postal services, is set to take effect after the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, according to the Director of Palestinian Postal Services Fathi Abu Shibak.

The PA and Israel signed the “memorandum of understanding” on Sunday, 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 at the time however, how having international mail directed through the Allenby border crossing, which Israel controls, will ensure one hundred percent PA authority over postal services.

When asked about the logistics and advantages of the new agreement on Wednesday, Shibak said that international mail to Palestine would be held in Israel for 48 hours maximum, as opposed to weeks and even months in the past.

He added that Palestinian and Israeli officials would meet immediately after the Eid holiday to agree on a location of a hall to be built near the Allenby Bridge, where Israeli authorities will “conduct security checks” on Palestinian mail while it passes from Jordan to the PA checkpoint in Jericho.

These security checks, he said, shouldn’t take more than 48 hours.

Shibak added that the PA signed agreement with Royal Jordanian Airlines to carry the international mail, as opposed to Israeli airlines who had transported it in the past.

According to Shibak, The agreement is expected to bring millions of dollars into the Palestinian Authority’s budget every year as the “final postal fees” will now go to the PA instead of Israel.

The Palestinian postal service has reportedly seen a noticeable increase in traffic in 2016 as a result of the emerging online shopping market in the area, which increased by 60 percent in August according to Shibak.

The Palestinian Authority receives about 20 tons of international mail every month, he said, adding that China is the most frequented market for online shoppers in Palestine.

In addition, the online demand for Palestinian products, specifically olive wood handicrafts, have been noticeably increasing.

Furthermore, in light of the recent agreement, the PA has established an office in Jericho for international mail exchange. The office will be in charge of receiving Palestinian international mail and distributing it to the different districts and cities within the occupied West Bank.

Despite having a formal governing body in the occupied West Bank in the form of the PA, Israel still 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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