Diplomacy

Israeli Finance Minister Looks to Improve West Bank Economy as PA Rejects Peace Overtures

Israel’s finance minister is eliciting support for a plan to strengthen the West Bank’s economy from the United States and European Union even as the Palestinian Authority is opposing such efforts, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday.

During the past three years, Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has been promoting a plan to build jointly-operated industrial zones, to make travel easier and to enable the PA to collect its own taxes, in an effort to boost the West Bank’s economy.

“It isn’t always visible, but the economy makes an important contribution to what’s going on,” Kahlon told Bloomberg ahead of his visit to the U.S. later this month to discuss his plan. “I’m a great believer in political process through economy.’’

Kahlon’s plan to improve the Palestinian economy is consistent with the view of the Trump administration, which believes that better economic conditions for Palestinians will make peace more accessible. The finance minister is slated to meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jason Greenblatt, the administration’s Mideast peace envoy, to discuss his plan while in the U.S.

Though he has been meeting with PA officials, Azmi Abdel Rahman, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority Economy Ministry, rejected Kahlon’s efforts as unilateral. Rahman insisted that any effort to improve the Palestinian economy should come as part of a comprehensive peace agreement.

A member of the U.S. National Security Council told Bloomberg that the administration would disapprove of PA efforts to undermine the economic well-being of its constituents.

In the past, Kahlon has met with European officials, who have all “expressed a willingness to help,” with his plan.

[Photo: United Hatzalah / YouTube ]