Defense Secretary Benny Gantz is reportedly planning a series of measures to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s economy in the coming weeks, according to a television report on Saturday.
Gantz will seek to approve additional housing units for Palestinians living in Zone C of the West Bank, which is under full Israeli control, in addition to the 1,300 units expected to be approved on Sunday, according to Channel 12.
Israel would also legalize the status of more undocumented Palestinians after 4,000 were approved last week, mostly in the West Bank, the report said. Before that, there had been a decade-long standstill in which almost no applications were approved.
Gantz also planned to expand Palestinian work permits to other sectors, including technology; Construction of additional filling stations in the West Bank; set up a forum to consider admitting Palestinian tourists to Israel; and other steps, said the report.
According to the network, Gantz will also travel to Washington for high-level meetings next month. The defense minister’s visit should focus on the Iranian nuclear program, but the approval of a new settlement should also be on the agenda.
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The US has criticized Israel’s approval of thousands of new housing units in the West Bank this week.
New residential buildings under construction in the settlement of Beit El in the West Bank with the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the background, October 13, 2020. (Menahem Kahana / AFP)
Gantz met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in August, the first public meeting of its kind between senior Israeli and Palestinian officials in over a decade. At a briefing after the meeting, Gantz called for the PA to be strengthened as a bulwark against Hamas and other terrorist groups.
“I told Abbas that we are not going anywhere and that the Palestinians are not going anywhere. I went to the meeting to build trust and protect the interests of the State of Israel and the important relationships we have with the Palestinian Authority, which I believe we need to strengthen, ”Gantz said at the time.
The Defense Minister said in August that Israel had offered to transfer NIS 500 million ($ 155 million) to the Palestinian Authority to help keep the troubled government afloat.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz (left) attends a conference in the Eshkol region of southern Israel. on July 13, 2021; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gives a speech on COVID-19 on May 5, 2020 at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the city of Ramallah, West Bank. (Flash90)
The agreement announced by Gantz, which he called a loan, will allow the Israeli government to effectively circumvent a law passed in 2018 requiring it to settle all PA payments to Palestinians wounded, imprisoned or killed by Israel – including avowed terrorists – by withholding the same amount from Palestinian tax revenue that Israel collects.
Instead, Israel will lend the PA approximately NIS 500 million and will repay itself next June of the approximately NIS 600 million ($ 186 million) it withheld and held in trust earlier this summer, roughly the same as Ramallah’s year In 2020 paid as salaries to those convicted of terrorism and families of so-called martyrs.
Also in August, the cabinet voted to increase the number of work permits for Palestinians in the West Bank by 15,000 after Israeli officials called for strengthening the ailing economy of the Palestinian Authority. The new permits were issued to Palestinians working in the Israeli construction sector.
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