Forward Thinking

The Devil You Know

By Nathan Jeffay

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The Israeli government has approved 5,000 new work permits for Palestinians to work in Israel.

The decision comes just a few days after the government released a report stating that permit allocation has increased by 40% over the last year-and-a-half, meaning that today 32,000 Palestinians earn their living in Israel.

The ability of Palestinians to work in Israel has been deeply impacted by the ups and downs in Israeli-Palestinian relations. Before the first intifada, access to Israel from the territories was pretty free and easy, and the Israeli economy was heavily reliant on Palestinian labor.

But for the duration of the first intifada, Israel drastically reduced the number of Palestinians from entering Israel. Again, during the second intifada permits became scarcer — and remained hard to come by afterwards.

As can be seen in the recent government report, the logic in Jerusalem is that increasing permit allocation is a way of helping the PA during its economic crisis. “The economic slowdown in the West Bank (5.4% growth rate) poses a major challenge to continued PA financial and institutional for Israeli stability,” it says.

It seems likely that there’s another motivating factor behind in newfound generosity with permits to Palestinians. As the history of this subject shows, Palestinians can be easily monitored, and if need be, their permits simply revoked. In other words, they stay in Israel only as long as Israel says so. But when it comes to the foreign workers that Israel brought in post-Intifadas to replace them, many stay illegally once they are no longer entitled to be in Israel.

There has been a lot of anger towards illegal immigrants over recent months, and the government is keen to crack down on all illegals, whether people who have arrived and stayed illegally, or people who used to be legal and who now aren’t. Burdened with the headache of what to do regarding illegals in Israel, it seems that some in government are taking the view that, if the security situation permits, Palestinian workers are a simpler option.


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