JERUSALEM: The Israeli Defense Minister on Wednesday approved a series of measures aimed at improving relations with the Palestinians following a rare meeting with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in Israel.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Abbas on Tuesday evening at his private residence on the outskirts of Tel Aviv. It was the first time Abbas had met an Israeli official in Israel since 2010.
The two discussed security coordination between Israel and Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which administers pockets of the occupied West Bank.
Gantz’s office said it had approved confidence-building measures (CBMs), including the transfer of tax payments to the Palestinian Authority, the authorization of hundreds of permits for Palestinian merchants and VIPs, and the approval of residency status for thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. .
Israel collects hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority under the interim peace accords signed in the 1990s.
Tax transfers are a key source of funding for cash-strapped Palestinians, but Israel has withheld funds from the PA payment of allowances to thousands of families whose loved ones have been killed, injured or imprisoned in the conflict.
Israel claims the payments incite terrorism, while Palestinians say they provide crucial support to families in need.
Israel has approved residency for some 9,500 Palestinians.
Israel controls the Palestinian population register, and over the years its policies have left tens of thousands of Palestinians without legal status, severely restricting their freedom of movement, even in the occupied territories.
Israel granted legal status to some 4,000 Palestinians in October.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to a Palestinian state. His government has shown no interest in relaunching the peace talks, which collapsed more than a decade ago, but has said it wants to reduce tensions by improving living conditions in the West Bank.
Posted in Dawn, December 30, 2021