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July 28, 2021 12:18 pm
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Israeli and Palestinian Government Ministers Meet for First Time in Years

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett speaks during a news conference on economy in Jerusalem, July 6, 2021. Menahem Kahana/Pool via REUTERS

Ministers from the governments of Israel and the Palestinian Authority met Wednesday for the first time in years, Walla reported.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and Minister of Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg met with their Palestinian counterparts in Jerusalem, at the initiative of the Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej, who is seeking to encourage a renewal of ties with the PA after years of estrangement.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office confirmed that he was aware and approved of the meeting.

Throughout the tenure of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, contacts between Israel and the PA steadily deteriorated, and for the past 18 months the only contacts have been through security officials and former president Reuven Rivlin.

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The last time Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke was in 2017.

Relations have picked up since Netanyahu’s replacement, however, with four telephone conversations between Abbas and senior Israeli officials, including President Isaac Herzog and Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

Bennett and Abbas have yet to speak, but the prime minister has said both publicly and to the US administration that he is interested in promoting civil and economic cooperation with the Palestinians in some form.

In a sign of thawing relations, Israel recently approved work permits for 15,000 West Bank Palestinian workers, reportedly at Abbas’ request.

A senior official who works on relations with the Palestinians told Walla, “The political echelon is signaling that it’s interested in advancing steps to strengthen the PA, and after many years there is legitimacy to talking with the Palestinians and [Abbas].”

“It’s a kind of renaissance,” he said.

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