Israelis Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met on Wednesday with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah to advance economic cooperation.
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On the agenda was implementation of economic steps in the West Bank that were approved by the Israeli security cabinet about two weeks ago. The two convened at Hamdallah’s office in the West Bank city of Ramallah, an uncommon venue for a meeting of this kind.
Kahlon’s office released a statement saying that he was joined at the meeting by the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai and that the meeting was held with the knowledge of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Also attending were the head of the Tax Authority at the Israeli Finance Ministry, Moshe Asher; the ministry’s budget division director, Amir Levy; the head of the civil department at the office of the Israeli Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Col. Hatib Mansour; and Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian Authority’s minister for civil affairs. The two sides agreed to convene work teams on economic matters to strengthen cooperation on the economic front between Israel and the Palestinians, Finance Minister Kahlon’s office said.
The civilian and economic measures approved by the Israeli security cabinet were presented at the meeting, including notably the decision to permit Palestinian construction activity in portions of Area C of the West Bank, the area that is under full Israeli military and civil control, Kahlon’s office’s statement said. The security cabinet’s decision also provides that about 20,000 homes built by Palestinians without Israeli permits in these designated areas of Area C would not be demolished.
The areas where Palestinian construction will be permitted are adjacent to Area A, the portions of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority has control of security and civilian matters, and adjacent to Area B, where the Palestinians have full civilian control.
The package of economic measures to the Palestinians in the West Bank was approved the day before U.S. President Donald Trump arrived for his first visit to Israel, in a move that sources say was meant as a gesture ahead of his visit.