There is a lot going on in Israel. And much of it complicates the job of diplomats posted there. The job of U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides is no exception.
Indeed, because of the unique, historic relationship between the United States and Israel, Nides’ job is particularly challenging. And to his credit — and to the credit of the Biden administration he serves — Nides has been very careful to modulate his public pronouncements and activities in a manner that is respectful of Israel’s independence and seeks to maintain the rock-solid bonds between Washington and the Jewish state, while providing input and taking advantage of more private avenues for the sharing of suggestions and concerns.
But there are some areas where Nides has used his platform and his public voice to encourage Israeli government action. One such area relates to the Allenby Bridge Border Terminal, which is the only exit for Palestinians living in the West Bank to reach Jordan and the world beyond. That border crossing area, which is controlled and administered by Israel under agreements between Israel and Jordan, and Israel and the Palestinian Authority, has been in operation since the 1994 signing of the Israel-Jordan peace agreement. But in its near three decades of operation, very little about how the border crossing facility operates has changed. Long waits are common as heavily laden trucks, busloads of people and a variety of individual and group travelers need to go through comprehensive screening processes in a cramped facility under the stifling heat of the Jordan Valley.
Nides wants to help modernize the Allenby operation to make it more user-friendly and accessible. He wants to see the border-crossing structure upgraded and its hours of operation expanded, all with the goal of “making people’s lives marginally a little better” without compromising security or other governmental concerns.
His efforts, which have reportedly been supplemented by encouragement from U.S. Special Envoy to the Palestinian Authority Hady Amr, have begun to bear fruit. Late last year, Israel ran a pilot program at the Allenby facility that expanded both the number of personnel assigned to the crossing and its hours of operation. And now, Israel has announced a significant expansion of hours of the Allenby operation beginning on April 2, which should help relieve the overcrowding and long waits that have plagued those trying to cross the border.
Beyond that, Israel has plans for a new Allenby terminal building — a modernized facility, complete with fast-moving biometric passport checks and other passenger accommodations — to significantly ease the pressure and tension of the border-crossing experience. Nides has also pledged to work with several Israeli government departments and authorities to assure proper funding for the new facility.
We applaud Ambassador Nides. His behind-the-scenes encouragement helped move the Allenby process along, similar to his successful involvement in last year’s announcement of U.S. funding for East Jerusalem hospitals during President Joe Biden’s summer visit to Israel.
Through his work, Nides reminds us of the enduring value of quiet, mission-driven diplomacy.