A technical team of the World Bank is examining the provision of a “safe road” which is intended to link the Gaza Strip with the West Bank areas controlled by the Palestinian National Authority (P.A) has recommended constructing three routes connecting Gaza with the southern, central and northern West Bank areas.
The World Bank detailed its report, which is dated September 30, and proposed the use of bus, cargo truck and passenger vehicle convoys. The report is expected to be discussed between Middle East Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn, Israeli and Palestinian security officials.
Israel and the P.A accept the in principle the main points of the report.
The World Bank report suggests that the routes should be located away from built-up and heavily trafficked areas, whenever possible, and suggests that convoys of trucks carrying goods could also be used for travel between Palestinian areas and Ben-Gurion International Airport, as well as the Ashdod and Haifa ports, Israeli online daily Haaretz reported.
Also, the World Bank stated that technical discussions will be needed between the two parties in order to agree on operational details.
“Given the current lack of agreement between Israel and the P.A on the how convoys will operate, it is proposed that operations begin with bus convoys for the transportation of people”, the World Bank reported, “This should be relatively uncomplicated to implement”.
The second and third stage are expected to be more complicated since the second stage includes the movement of Palestinian cargo trucks, and the third stage includes the direct movement of private Palestinian vehicles.
The World Bank suggests the following procedures as reported in Haaretz;
– The convoys could contain up to five buses (300 passengers, if each bus carries 60), 15 trucks or 25 personal vehicles. The number of vehicles per convoy should be limited on the basis of security considerations.
– Convoys should operate on a fixed, published schedule, and during daylight hours.
– With an optimum mix of routes and an average of a 10-hour operating day, passenger bus convoys could serve up to 2,100 passengers per day in each direction. With a reasonable level of utilization, it should be possible to provide this service at less than $15 per person each way. The cost of the transport and security services would be borne by the convoy users.
– Convoys would be organized by private Israeli transport companies and escorted by a private Israeli security companies. The companies would be selected by the Palestinian Authority on a competitive basis from among a list of bidders.
– Permission to travel would be granted to all Palestinians “except those are considered to pose security risks”. The screening of passengers would not need to be as exacting as for those visiting Israel.
If Israel decides to refuse giving a permit to any resident, the refusal should be based on clear criteria, subject to review. While in transit, passengers will not be subject to arrest unless they conduct an act which gives cause for alarm. Frequent travelers could be given frequent traveler ID cards to speed processing.
In cases of medical emergencies, the World Bank suggests that the convoy should continue in transit, but an ambulance should be dispatched to intercept it and evacuate the affected traveler to a nearby hospital.
Also, the Bank suggests creating a special channel at the Erez crossing [in the northern part of the Gaza Strip] for the inspection of convoy trucks and their drivers.
On Tuesday evening, Palestinian and Israeli teams met yesterday met to discuss the reopening the Rafah Border Crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip.
EU inspectors will be present at the crossing and control the monitor cameras at the entrance. They will not be responsible for arresting smugglers, and will not conduct security procedures.
During the interim period, which both sides agreed on, only residents with special permits will be allowed to cross into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Border Crossing.
Goods and other travelers will use the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is controlled by Israel. Cargo trucks entering Egypt will be allowed to cross through the Rafah terminal.
Israeli and Palestinian officials hope that the crossing will be opened mid-November, especially since inspection equipment has been installed there.
Sabri Saidam, Palestinian Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology said on Wednesday that the Israeli demand to transmit live feed from the crossing is delaying arriving to a final agreement.
“In principle we agreed to reopen the Rafah Border Crossing”, Saidam told reporters on Wednesday, “But the live feed Israel is insisting on, is delaying the final agreement”.
Also, Saidam added that Palestinian and Israeli negotiators will hold several meetings in order to resolve all issues regarding operating the crossing, including setting the number of European observers.