Palestinians workers
Illustration of Palestinians working in agriculture in Israel. Photo by Achikam Sari
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A Palestinian must be at least 28 years old to pick strawberries in Israel, and to work in a field he must be at least 35, according to set criteria for Palestinians to be issued a work permit in Israel, Haaretz has learned.

The government of Israel occasionally sets quotas for Palestinian workers. The number of Palestinians working in Israel has increased in recent years and currently stands at 32,000.

The defense minister determines the criteria for being issued a work permit, and a Palestinian who wants to cross into Israel for work must first find an interested employer willing to file an application on his behalf.

According to the criteria established by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and received by Gisha, a non-government organization, the quota for Palestinians seeking construction work in Israel is set at 19,500. Gisha had filed a petition, on the basis of the Freedom of Information Act, requesting data on Palestinian workers.

In order to receive a work permit in construction, the Palestinian applicant must be at least 35 years old and married with children.

In the industry or services sector, 2,250 positions are allotted; 1,750 positions in agriculture; and 3,000 for work in orchards and groves. In these sectors, too, a Palestinian must be at least 35 and married with children to receive a work permit.

On the other hand, to pick citrus fruits or strawberries, a Palestinian worker can be 28 and married with children. It is not clear from the list of criteria why a 30-year-old Palestinian can pick strawberries but cannot water fields.

To work in a hotel in East Jerusalem, a Palestinian can be single and aged 25; to work in the Atarot industrial zone in East Jerusalem, one must be at least 21.

Responding to a Haaretz query, the Defense Ministry explained that "the criteria are set on the basis of security concerns of defense establishment officials and according to updated assessments."

The number of Palestinians entering Israel for work has been on the rise in recent years. In 2003, at the peak of the second intifada, 12,708 Palestinians were given work permits. In 2008, the figure stood at 23,821.