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Gantz says Israel to extend NIS 500 million loan to Palestinians

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

(L) Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference in the Eshkol region, southern Israel. on July 13, 2021. (R) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech regarding COVID-19, at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 5, 2020 (Flash90)
(L) Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a conference in the Eshkol region, southern Israel. on July 13, 2021. (R) Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivers a speech regarding COVID-19, at the Palestinian Authority headquarters, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, May 5, 2020 (Flash90)

Defense Minister Benny Gantz says Israel is offering an NIS 500 million ($155 million) loan to the Palestinian Authority in order to prevent its collapse.

This arrangement allows the Israeli government to effectively circumvent a law passed in 2018 that requires it offset the payments the PA makes to Palestinians wounded, jailed, or killed by Israel — including avowed terrorists — by confiscating the same amount from the Palestinian tax revenue that Israel collects.

The half-billion shekel loan that Israel is giving to the Palestinian will be paid off from those confiscated funds.

Gantz’s announcement came after a meeting he held the night before with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who also goes by the nom de guerre Abu Mazen. This was the first such meeting between high-level Israeli and Palestinian officials in nearly a decade.

“I told Abu Mazen that we aren’t going anywhere and that the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere. I went to the meeting in order to build confidence and preserve the interests of the State of Israel and the important ties we have with the Palestinian Authority, which I believe we need to strengthen,” Gantz says.

“As the Palestinian Authority gets stronger, Hamas gets weaker, and so long as it has greater governance, we will have more security and we will have to act less,” he adds.

The defense minister says Israel will also recognize the status of thousands of Palestinians currently living in the West Bank without proper documentation, most of whom came from the Gaza Strip or from abroad without proper approvals over the years. This would only apply to adults and would be performed according to the relevant security protocols, his office said.

Israel was also digitizing many of its permit applications for Palestinian in order to streamline the process and make it cheaper and easier, according to Gantz.

An additional 16,000 Palestinians will also be permitted to work in Israel, 1,000 of them specifically in tourism, and Israel will also approve more building in Area C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli security control, he says.

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