In Rare Meeting, Israeli and Palestinian Ministers Agree on Medical Service Cooperation

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Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg at a Meretz party meeting, last month
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg at a Meretz party meeting, last monthCredit: Emil Salman

The first meeting since 2018 on Wednesday between Israeli cabinet ministers and their Palestinian counterparts ended in agreements on the recognition of COVID vaccines and easing the transfer of patients from Gaza to the West Bank.  

Nitzan Horowitz and Tamar Zandberg, both of left-wing Meretz party, met with Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila and Jamil Matour, head of the Palestinian Authority's Environmental Quality Authority, in Jerusalem's Hotel Yehuda. The meetings were also attended by representatives of Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

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In the meeting, Israel agreed to accept the vaccination certificates produced by the Palestinian Authority and recognize all vaccines given to the Palestinians by international organizations. 

The Palestinian Authority also stated that Israel would authorize the provision of medical services to schools in East Jerusalem, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority. Israel also agreed to relax restrictions on Palestinian medical teams' access to East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank, which is under Israeli control.

Moreover, Ramallah added that the parties reached an agreement on a smoother process to transfer patients from Gaza to West Bank hospitals through the Erez Crossing.  

Meretz said the last meeting between an Israeli and a Palestinian health minister was in 2012, and the last one between environmental protection chiefs in 2014.

The Regional Cooperation Ministry said follow-up meetings were scheduled for the coming months, and that other Israeli ministers will soon meet with their Palestinian counterparts.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett hasn't spoken with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas since he assumed office in June, but President Isaac Herzog, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev all called Abbas to congratulate him on the occasion of Eid al-Adha last week.

The last time an Israeli cabinet member met with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was in 2018, with then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.

Former Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was set to meet the PA's Riyad al-Maliki in early 2021, but the meeting was eventually called off due to coronavirus restrictions.

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