Israel, Palestinian Authority discuss cooperation on tourism

JERUSALEM, Dec. 17 (JTA) — Israeli and Palestinian officials met this week to discuss coordination on tourism projects. The discussions took place during a visit to Bethlehem by Tourism Minister Moshe Katsav, who met with the city’s mayor, Elias Freij, who is also the Palestinian Authority official in charge of tourism. Katsav’s visit came a week before the Christmas holiday. Freij said Israeli closures of the territories were having a detrimental impact on tourism and called for a separation of politics from tourism. “There has to be a total separation,” he told reporters. “People come to this country because it is the Holy Land.” Katsav called for closer cooperation with the Palestinians in this area, adding that coordination on tourism would serve as proof that Israeli- Palestinian relations were back on track, despite obstacles in the peace negotiations. In a separate development, Israeli business leaders met with the Palestinian Authority official in charge of trade to discuss cooperation. Israel Chamber of Commerce President Danny Gillerman expressed concern about new Palestinian trade regulations that he said could lead to a boycott of Israeli distributors and agents selling in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But Maher al-Masri said the regulations would be implemented gradually and would not bar the sale of Israeli products.

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