Israel said ready to give Palestinians extra control in some West Bank areas
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Israel said ready to give Palestinians extra control in some West Bank areas

Palestinian news agency says Moshe Kahlon agreed to grant Palestinians more construction freedom in Israeli-controlled areas

Jacob Magid is the settlements correspondent for The Times of Israel.

From left: Head of of COGAT Maj- Gen Yoav Mordechai,  Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheik, Israel's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Israel's Ministry of Finance Director-General Shai Babad sign an agreement to resolve NIS 2 billion of debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to the Israel Electric Corporation, September 12, 2016. (Facebook/COGAT)
From left: Head of of COGAT Maj- Gen Yoav Mordechai, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheik, Israel's Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Israel's Ministry of Finance Director-General Shai Babad sign an agreement to resolve NIS 2 billion of debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to the Israel Electric Corporation, September 12, 2016. (Facebook/COGAT)

Israel has agreed to give the Palestinian Authority expanded authority in parts of the West Bank that were until now solely under Israeli control as part of a package of economic incentives, Palestinian media reported Thursday. Israel did not confirm the claim.

The report came following a meeting Wednesday between Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

According to the official PA news agency Wafa, such powers will specifically be related to construction and planning permissions with the Palestinians now receiving more latitude to build in Area C, which is under Israeli civil and military control. In addition, demolitions due to lack of proper licensing will no longer be implemented, the report said.

The report did not specify which parts of Area C were under discussion, however reports last week suggested the focus would be on the northern West Bank.

Under the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990’s, Area C (which makes up 60 percent of the West Bank, where most of the settlements are located, and where some 150,000 Palestinians live) is under full Israeli administrative and military control. In Area B (which comprises 22% of the West Bank), administrative control is the responsibility of the PA while the IDF is in charge of security. Area A (18% percent of the West Bank), encompasses the major Palestinian cities and is under the full administrative and military control of the Palestinian Authority.

Kahlon and Hamdallah were joined late Wednesday by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, and the PA’s Minister of Civilian Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh. The goal of the meeting was to discuss steps that the Israeli cabinet approved last month to improve economic ties with the PA and relieve restrictions on Palestinian movement. The steps were approved ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to the region last month.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaks during a press conference in the West Bank City of Ramallah, Monday, January 16, 2017 (Flash90)
Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah speaks during a press conference in the West Bank City of Ramallah, Monday, January 16, 2017 (Flash90)

These include expanded operating hours at key crossings through which large numbers of Palestinians travel. The Allenby Bridge crossing to Jordan will run around the clock, while hours will be extended and infrastructures improved at other crossings.

The cabinet also approved establishing an industrial zone near the Tarkumiya crossing northwest of Hebron in the southern West Bank.

A statement from Kahlon’s Kulanu party said the meeting was the latest in a series the finance minister has held with senior PA figures, and specified that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was aware of the confab.

The meeting came a week after Channel 10 reported that the Trump administration was pressing Israel to transfer parts of the West Bank to Palestinian administrative control as a goodwill gesture to help revive peace talks between the two sides.

Specifically, the Americans have asked for areas in the northern West Bank to be transferred from Area C to Area B, according to the report.

The Prime Minister’s Office denied the Channel 10 report.

Sue Surkes contributed to this report.

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