The Israeli defense establishment is planning to allow 30,000 more Palestinians to work in Israel, despite the escalation in terror attacks in recent months. The security cabinet has already approved the main provisions of the plan.
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The plan was presented to the ministers last month by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, coordinator of government activity in the territories. It is under discussion with the relevant government agencies, in preparation for a vote by the full cabinet.
In the recent escalation, only two attacks were carried out by Palestinians working in Israel. In November, two Israelis were stabbed in south Tel Aviv by a Palestinian man. In December, a Palestinian construction worker attacked two other workers with a hammer at a building site in Modi’in. Both perpetrators were in Israel legally. Attacks by family members of Palestinians with Israeli work permits are also considered rare.
Around 58,000 Palestinians have permits to work within Israel proper. An estimated 120,000 Palestinians work for Israelis, including over 30,000 who work in Israel illegally and some 27,000 who work in industrial zones in West Bank settlements.
The 30,000 additional workers are expected to be employed in construction, infrastructure, manufacturing, services, agriculture and other areas. As in the past, candidates will be required to pass a Shin Bet security service screening.
There is widespread support in the defense establishment for adding tens of thousands of Palestinians to the Israeli workforce; senior Israel Defense Forces officials have been suggesting this ever since the latest wave of terror began in early October. Even the Shin Bet, which is generally more conservative, has recently expressed support for economic gestures in the hope they would stop the recent escalation of violence.
Senior security sources told Haaretz on Sunday that a policy of reserving jobs for Palestinians in Israel has proven to restrain terror.
Both Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot have on several occasions expressed support for the continued employment of Palestinians as a means of dissuading thousands of people from committing violent acts. Both have also objected collective punishment, saying that a distinction should be made between terrorists and the general population of the West Bank, most of whom have stayed away even from violent demonstrations.
Even Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who during the escalation has advocated getting tough with the Palestinians, yesterday expressed support for increasing the number of work permits to up to 100,000.
An Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) opinion poll published in the territories over the weekend showed a sharp drop in the number of West Bank and Gaza residents supporting a third intifada, from 63 percent in November to 42 percent now. Despite the declarations by senior officials against collective punishment, closures have recently been imposed on Ramallah, on Beit Ur al-Tahta west of Ramallah and on Qabatiyah in the Jenin region in response to murderous attacks committed by residents of those places.
Another step taken recently has been the withdrawal of work permits from relatives of terrorists killed during their assaults for fear that those relatives would commit revenge attacks.