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Israeli and PA Finance Ministers hold private meeting

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The Finance Ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) met in Jerusalem yesterday.

Moshe Kahlon and Shukri Bishara discussed good will gestures and economic incentives before US President Donald Trump’s visit to the regional next week.

Plans agreed by the two are expected to be submitted to and approved by the Israeli cabinet on Sunday. They include  having the Allenby Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan open 24 hours a day, the development of two industrial zones at Jalame near Jenin and Tarkumiya close to Hebron, and improvements to the system used by Israel to transfer the taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority for exports.

The Palestinians’ chief concern was reported to be the high level of unemployment among university graduates, which has hit 30 per cent, and how to bring those people into the work force.

The private meeting was arranged by Minister Tzachi Hanegbi, who is responsible for regional development. He gathered from Palestinian contacts that there was an interest to cooperate and connected the Finance Ministers for a private meeting.

President Trump’s Special Envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt will meet both Israeli and Palestinian officials today, ahead of what will be the US President’s first foreign visit since taking office.

Yesterday, during his Coast Guard commencement speech, Trump spoke about the messages he would bring to the region. He said that in his first stop, Saudi Arabia, he “will speak with Muslim leaders and challenge them to fight hatred and extremism and embrace a peaceful future for their faith”.

On Israel, he said: “I’ll reaffirm our unbreakable alliance with the Jewish state.”

US officials also clarified the President would not be making a declaration about moving the embassy to Jerusalem on the trip, although they would ultimately like to see it happen. They are concerned that an announcement at this stage would jeopardise the attempts to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.