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US, Israel convene economic policy group for 1st time under Biden administration

US says sides discussed bilateral ties, building on ‘normalization agreements,’ and strengthening Palestinian economy; Israeli readout leaves out latter

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Joe Biden shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Israel and the United States reconvened their Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) virtually on Wednesday for the first time under the Biden administration, continuing an annual tradition started in 1985.

The meeting agenda focused on the “macro-economic outlook, regional economic development in the context of Israel’s normalization agreements, efforts to strengthen the Palestinian economy, financial cyber security, and green economy investments,” the State Department said.

The US readout was described as a joint statement, but in the Israeli version released by the Finance Ministry, the strengthening of the Palestinian economy was not mentioned. Moreover, the Israeli readout called the normalization agreements the Abraham Accords. The Biden administration had initially refrained from using the term coined by the Trump administration but had begun doing so more recently after media began taking note.

Wednesday’s meeting came a day after the US reconvened the dialogue’s equivalent with Palestinian leadership. That group — the US-Palestinian Economic Dialogue — did not meet during the Trump administration. Shortly after taking office, US President Joe Biden re-established official ties with Ramallah, which boycotted the US after former president Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in late 2017.

The Israeli side was headed by Finance Ministry director Ram Belinkov and included officials from his office, the Foreign Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Bank of Israel, along with Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog.

The US side was headed by US Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Yael Lempert and included US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Treasury Eric Meyer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Roland de Marcellus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Hady Amr and other officials from the State, Treasury, Housing, Energy, and Environmental Protection departments.

“The JEDG is another important pillar in strengthening even more the strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States and is important to the Israeli economy. The discussions were successful and fruitful, and I believe they will promote further firming up of economic ties between the countries,” Belinkov said in a statement.

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