Israeli, PA ministers meet for first time since US Jerusalem recognition

Israeli, PA ministers meet for first time since US Jerusalem recognition

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian economy minister Abeer Odeh open new cargo facility at Allenby border crossing between West Bank and Jordan

The Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and Israel (Shay Levy/Flash90)
The Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and Israel (Shay Levy/Flash90)

Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, including ministers from both sides, met at a ceremony Tuesday in the first high-level encounter since US President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Palestinian Authority National Economy Minister Abeer Odeh attended the inauguration of a new cargo scanner at the Israeli-controlled Allenby Bridge border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank.

Kahlon also confirmed Hebrew media reports that he will be meeting with PAPrime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Jerusalem on Sunday as part of efforts to advance “a number of joint projects.”

While Kahlon and Odeh cut a ribbon together to inaugurate the new scanning station it was not known if they exchanged more than pleasantries at the ceremony, leaving Hamdallah’s upcoming meeting at the finance minister’s office as the first high-level talks between Israelis and Palestinians since the US move on Jerusalem.

The new scanning device will enable 200 containers to cross between Jordan and the Palestinian territory a day, double the current number, Israel’s Tax Authority said in a statement.

Other senior Israeli and Palestinian officials were present at the event, as well as a Jordanian representative and Dutch diplomats, whose country donated the new machine.

“I arrived at the Finance Ministry after a long period of stagnation in the relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” Kahlon said in remarks relayed by the Tax Authority. “We have decided to take responsibility and advance a number of joint projects.”

“We have many plans to continue our financial cooperation with the (Palestinian) Authority,” Kahlon added.

Kahlon also noted that earlier this week he met with US peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, who he said “supports and is pressing to continue to advance things.”

“We see in Greenblatt and in the United States central, important and fair mediators and the only ones to advance cooperation in the region,” Kahlon said.

Hamdallah and Kahlon meet every few months to discuss economic and infrastructure issues. Their last talks took place on October 30.

Illustrative: Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (3rd from left) meets with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (4th from left) in Ramallah, on October 30, 2017. (Twitter)

Their Sunday meeting will be the first since Trump pledged on December 6 to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, breaking with the policies of his predecessors.

Outraged Palestinian leaders said the US could no longer play the role of peace broker and called for the suspension of their recognition of Israel, a move that has not been implemented.

The United States meanwhile withheld $65 million of funds earmarked for the UN relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

Palestinian officials did not confirm the Israeli report on the meeting.

Hamdallah is heading for Brussels for an “emergency” meeting Wednesday of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, which coordinates international donor support for the Palestinians.

The Palestinian premier will raise the issue of the financial crisis facing his government and seek funding for Gaza, a government statement said.

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