PA Lightens Ban on Working in Settlements to Ease Palestinian Unemployment

Figures show number of Palestinians employed in settlements has increased to nearly 35,000; PA legislation barring employment there would be an economic blow to Palestinian population.

Avi Issacharoff
Avi Issacharoff
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Avi Issacharoff
Avi Issacharoff

The Palestinian Authority has reconsidered a proposal that would have barred Palestinian laborers from working in West Bank Jewish settlements.

Although several PA officials, notably Economy Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh and Prime Minister Salad Fayyad, came out in favor of such a move at the beginning of the year, it appears the PA has decided not to push for legislation on the issue because it is unable to offer the workers alternative employment.

Nonetheless, the PA's campaign against the purchase of products from the settlements is continuing with greater intensity. It has recently expanded the campaign all over the West Bank and says certain localities do not use items produced in the settlements.

The settlements and laborers who work in them have a mutually beneficial relationship, and settlement construction relies on Palestinian labor. Many Palestinian workers who do not have permission to work in Israel proper find employment in the settlements.

According to Israeli figures from September 2009 that were provided to the PA's donor countries, 22,000 Palestinians were working with Israeli permission in the settlements, including the settlements' industrial zones.

Non-governmental organizations have said, however, that about 10,000 other Palestinians are working in the settlements without formal permission, mainly in seasonal agricultural work.

It also appears that since September 2009, the number of Palestinians employed in the settlements has increased to nearly 35,000. These workers support a Palestinian population of more than 200,000, and PA legislation barring employment in the settlements would be an economic blow to Palestinians in the West Bank following a rise in Palestinian living standards there.

Abu Libdeh told Haaretz that the issue is currently being handled by Labor Minister Ahmed Majdalani, who said he has no details to provide at the moment.

Associates of Fayyad said there was never an intention to pass legislation barring Palestinian employment in the settlements without suitable alternative employment. They said the PA seeks to reduce the number of Palestinians working in the settlements, but there is no intention at this time to harm the laborers financially.

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