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Finance Minister Seeks Solutions with His Palestinian Counterpart

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Israeli Finance Minister Dan Meridor met with his Palestinian counterpart this week to discuss ways to ease economic hardships of the Palestinians caused by the closure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The talks at Jerusalem’s Finance Ministry marked the highest- level meeting between a Palestinian Authority official and a member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud government since Foreign Minister David Levy met last month in Gaza with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Maher Al-Masri warned that if the closure continued, it would no doubt cause social problems that would cause a “derailing of the peace process.”

Meridor gave no specifics of the talks with Al-Masri, but said, “There is a common interest to improve the economic situation in the territories under Palestinian jurisdiction and we will work together to promote this interest.”

The current closure, which has been in place for some six months, was imposed by the previous Labor government after the first in a series of suicide bombings in February and March in Israel.

The ban, continued by the current government with some easing, has kept tens of thousands of Palestinians from jobs in Israel.

Palestinian officials say unemployment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has reached an unprecedented 51 percent.

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