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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
After a long break, the Israeli and Palestinian tourism ministries are again exploring ways to cooperate, the two sides said Tuesday, the latest sign of the warming political atmosphere.
Tourism Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Palestinian Minister Of Tourism and Antiquities Khuloud Daibes met recently in Jerusalem to discuss promoting joint tourism projects, the two ministries said.
They agreed to reactivate the Joint Committee on Tourism, which suspended operations after Hamas took power in the Palestinian Authority after sweeping a parliamentary in early 2006.
Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist, and Israel shuns the Islamic group, which has killed more than 250 Israelis in suicide bombings.
The equation changed after Hamas violently wrested control of the Gaza Strip in mid-June, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas ousted the group from power. Hamas's expulsion allowed Israel and Western powers to end their boycott of the Palestinian Authority, though Abbas controls only the West Bank.
Tourism to the area was hurt badly by the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in late 2000, but has rebounded as violence subsided.
Israeli and Palestinian leaders are preparing for a Middle East peace conference later this year, called by US President George W. Bush, but so far no agreements have been announced. Deputy Palestinian Tourism Minister Marwan Toubassi said further cooperation in tourism would require "accelerating the peace process and reaching a final agreement."