Israel, Palestinians Meet to Discuss Japanese Initiative to Expand West Bank Industrial Zone

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Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, April 30, 2018.
Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, April 30, 2018.Credit: \ MUHAMMAD HAMED/ REUTERS

Israeli, Palestinian and Japanese ministers met in Jordan on Sunday night to discuss a Japanese initiative to expand the joint industrial zone located in the West Bank city of Jericho.

The meeting was attended by Economy Minister Eli Cohen, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono, and Imad Fakhoury, the Jordanian minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be visiting Israel and meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu next week. This will be Abe's second visit to Israel, three years since his first trip in 2015. He will be accompanied by a delegation of Japanese businessmen.

The Israeli delegation to Jordan included representatives of the Foreign Ministry, the Economy Ministry, the Regional Cooperation Ministry and officials from the office coordinating the government's activity in the West Bank.

>> The real story behind the Israeli-Jordanian peace deal

The meeting also marked the official end of the disconnect between Jordan and Israel, which began back in July when an Israeli security guard shot a Jordanian citizen who tried to stab him. A Jordanian bystander was also shot and killed in the incident, which caused a crisis in diplomatic relations between Amman and Jerusalem.

In recent years the Japanese have shown growing interest in helping Israel and the Palestinians push the peace process forward. Among other initiatives over the last year, they also suggested holding a summit for Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and an American negotiations team.

Over the last two year relations between Jerusalem and Tokyo grew tighter and a number of Israeli ministers have visited Japan, including Regional Cooperation Minister  Tzachi Hanegbi last March.

The Japanese government has been promoting and financing JAIP – the Jericho Agro Industrial Park – as a means of promoting economic growth and peace efforts. They hope to expand it from nine plants to 32, employing about 5,000 people. The location was chosen based on its proximity to the Allenby Bridge and Jordan; the Palestinian Authority will be able to export goods from the Industrial Park to the Arab world, mainly to the Gulf nations. 

During the last year the American negotiating team, headed by Jason Greenblatt, has been pressing Israel hard to upgrade the Allenby crossing point and make it more efficient also using European funding.

Among the endeavors at the industrial zone are a plant making wet wipes, one producing plastic packaging, one for roasting and packaging seeds and nuts, a soda plant and a plant making drugs from olive leaves.

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