Step towards 'peace': Israel approves work permits for Palestinians
JERUSALEM - The Israeli government on Sunday approved the allocation of 5,000 work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank, an official said.
"The initial resolution stated that it was within the framework of the peace negotiations with the Palestinians and efforts to improve the Palestinian economy," the official said on condition of anonymity.
"But several ministers opposed this phrasing, saying there was no reason to improve the Palestinian economy when the Palestinians don't miss an opportunity to back boycotts against Israel's economy," the official said.
The Israeli decision comes amid recently renewed direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians after a three-year stalemate.
Last month, Israel released 26 Palestinian prisoners in the first batch of some 104 long-term detainees who are to be freed in stages contingent on progress in the negotiations as a confidence-building gesture.
Since the start in 2000 of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, Israel has limited the number of permits it grants Palestinians to enter for work, medical treatment or other needs.
In addition to the newly approved 5,000 permits, nearly 70,000 Palestinians have permanent work permits for Israel, according to a defence official.