Kahlon Holds Rare Meeting With Palestinian PM

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has met the Palestinian Authority prime minister, Israeli officials said on Thursday, in a rare visit by an Israeli Cabinet member to Ramallah, part of a U.S. peace push.

The Security Cabinet agreed just before President Donald Trump’s visit last week on a series of measures aimed at building confidence in relations with the Palestinians.

MK Kahlon went to Ramallah late on Wednesday to present the proposals to Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, the officials said.

The measures include opening the Allenby Bridge border crossing between Yehudah and Shomron and Jordan 24 hours a day, an increased number of building permits for Palestinians living in Area C, and further development of industrial zones near Jenin and Chevron.

Under interim peace deals between Israel and the Palestinians, Area C – which comprises 60 percent of Yehudah and Shomron – is under Israel’s full security and civil control.

Youssef al-Mahmoud, a Palestinian government spokesman, said Hamdallah told Kahlon that economic measures cannot serve as a substitute for a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to WAFA, the official Palestinian news agency.

An Israeli defense official said she believed Kahlon’s visit marked the first time an Israeli Cabinet minister had held an official meeting in Ramallah since 2014.

“Civil-economic steps that Israel would promote with regard to the Palestinian Authority were presented at the meeting, following the visit of the U.S. president,” an official Israeli statement said.