PA premier protests Israeli moves in meeting with Kahlon

Hosting Israeli finance minister, Rami Hamdallah demands Jerusalem rescind approval for thousands of settlement houses, cancel bill to withhold money over ‘terrorist salaries’

Khaled Abu Toameh is the Palestinian Affairs correspondent for The Times of Israel

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)
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)

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met in Ramallah on Monday with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and PA Finance Minister Shukri Bishara.

It was Kahlon’s second visit to Ramallah in the past year.

The meeting was held despite recent Palestinian threats to suspend economic, political and security relations with Israel, and amid increased tensions between the PA and the US administration over President Donald Trump’s December recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The meeting came a few days after Minister of Economy Eli Cohen met with his PA counterpart, Abeer Odeh, in Paris.

Major-General Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, and PA Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh attended Monday’s meeting, which took place in Hamdallah’s offices.

Last week, Mordechai met in Ramallah with Hamdallah and United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov. The talks focused on the crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian opposition factions have expressed outrage over the Israeli-Palestinian meetings, saying they contravene the decisions of PLO and Fatah institutions to suspend all ties with Israel.

West Bank Israeli settlement Maale Adumim (foreground-R), a few kilometers from East Jerusalem (background) on October 26, 2017, as seen from the Israeli settlement of Kedar. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

The Palestinian news agency Wafa said the Kahlon-Hamdallah talks dealt with a series of important issues, including the Israeli government’s decision to build thousands of housing units in settlements.

The two sides, the agency added, also discussed Israeli moves to deduct funds from PA tax revenues to “punish the Palestinian Authority over its payment to families of security prisoners and martyrs.”

On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill advanced by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman to deduct any amount the PA pays to the families from future tax revenues.

“The Bill to Offset Terrorist Salaries that I initiated was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation,” Liberman said, adding that “soon this theater of absurd will end and the terrorists’ salaries taken from Abbas will be used to prevent terrorism and compensate victims.”

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (C) chairs a reconciliation government cabinet meeting in Gaza City, on October 3, 2017. (AFP Photo/Pool/Mohammed Abed)

At the Ramallah meeting, the PA officials affirmed their rejection of the Israeli decisions and called for rescinding them.

The Israeli decisions pose a big danger to the two-state solution, the PA officials cautioned.

Hamdallah and his ministers also demanded an end to “settler assaults against Palestinians and incursions by extremist Jewish settlers to the al-Aqsa Mosque and Islamic and Christian holy sites,” according to the PA news agency.

The PA officials also demanded that Israel lift the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip and facilitate the movement of individuals and goods between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and between the Gaza Strip and the outside world, the agency added.

The Palestinians also demanded that Israel facilitate Palestinian projects in Area C of the West Bank, which is under exclusive Israeli control, but home to several thousand Palestinians.

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