The United States has extended its free-trade agreement with Israel and has adopted a similar agreement with the Palestinian Authority.
The U.S.-Israel agreement, signed last week by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and U.S. Trade Representative Mickey Kantor, extends for five years the original 1985 pact that allows for duty-free imports of most goods produced by the two countries.
During his three-day stay in Israel, Kantor also exchanged letters of understanding with Israel and the Palestinian Authority that authorize a new free-trade status between the United States and the Palestinian self-rule areas.
Kantor said he hoped that the American agreement with the self-rule government for the Gaza Strip and portions of the West Bank would “raise the standard of living in the areas by creating jobs and security.”
He said the agreement was possible because “the Palestinian Authority has committed itself to working toward the elimination of the Arab trade boycott of Israel.”
During an interview in Jerusalem, Kantor discussed American Jewish reaction to the peace policies of the Rabin government.
He denied that American Jews are more divided than ever over Israel’s policies.
“There has always been very intensive discussion” within the American Jewish community, Kantor said.
But in a swipe at Republican leaders, he said that using the divisions among American Jews “for partisan political purposes is unfortunate and unhelpful.”
Kantor stressed the Clinton administration’s “very supportive” policies regarding Israel’s peace and security interests.
The administration “worked closely” with Rabin, Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Araft, Jordan’s King Hussein and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and “have made great strides,” Kantor said.