JERUSALEM (Jan. 14)
The Jordanian government has reactivated its passport offices on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem that have been closed for the last 12 years. The action is the latest in a series of small moves that are technical in nature but have political implications. One senior official here has interpreted them as “an attempt to strengthen Jordan’s position” in the Israel-administered territories.
So far, Israeli authorities have turned “a blind eye” to these developments. It was learned, however, that a senior government body–apparently the Ministerial Committee on Jerusalem–discussed the passport office plan and decided not to oppose it.
In practical terms, the Jordanian move means that a regular “diplomatic mail route” will be opened between the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Amman, Residents of those areas will be able to send their passports to the Jordanian capital for renewal by the Interior Ministry there. Until now, they have had to make the journey to Amman themselves or pay a courier.
The passport offices will begin to function within the next few weeks. They will operate out of the chambers of commerce or municipality offices in West Bank towns and the Chamber of Commerce in East Jerusalem. Officials there will be authorized to handle the passports of any resident. This will make it easier for West Bankers to maintain their Jordanian credentials, a service that has political implications.
The passport officials who have been on the Jordanian payroll since 1967, although they ceased to function after the Israeli occupation, seem to agree that some political motivation is involved. One official said that while he and his colleagues would not defy their employers in Amman, they would resume their work only if West Bank leaders agreed. He said it was up to the mayors and other acknowledged leaders to decide.
The Jordanian government recently instructed customs officers and lawyers in its employ on the West Bank to resume their work which was suspended in 1967. It was not clear what duties the customs officers are expected to perform.