After Terror Attacks, Israeli Army and Security Service Butt Heads Over Palestinian Work Permits

The Israeli army believes that Palestinians who come in legally via checkpoints can be more easily monitored and that work permits give them something to lose. The Shin Bet, however, believes such a step will increase the number of terror attacks

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on Friday.
IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi on Friday.Credit: IDF Spokesperson
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Israeli military officials recommended easing conditions for Palestinians from the West Bank to obtain work permits on Friday, in a bid to reduce illegal entry and sharpen tracking of those who enter the country, though the Shin Bet security service objects to the proposal.

The decision is currently in the hands of the political officials, but the two organizations are providing conflicting advice.

During security talks held following the wave of terror attacks, IDF representatives suggested giving work permits to many of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who are in Israel illegally, most of whom come into the country in order to work, on the assumption that this makes them less likely to join militant groups or commit terror attacks.

IDF special forces at the scene of the terror attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday.

The Shin Bet, however, are reluctant to broaden the eligibility criteria for work permits and believe that such a decision could increase the number of terrorist attacks in Israel. The security service says that the current framework is based on an analysis of people who have previous carried out terror attacks. The IDF disputes this, claiming that the Shin Bet's position is not backed by data and that there is a direct link between work permits and quiet on the security front.

Though Israel's military believes that there's no reason to necessarily increase the number of work permits, it believes the conditions need to be reassessed by the Shin Bet security service, which is responsible for the process.

According to the current criteria, only married Palestinians over the age of 21 are eligible for a work permit. The IDF is looking to change the minimum age to 22, but to allow unmarried men to apply, in order to tap into a large pool of young, jobless Palestinians.

A hole in the separation barrier this week.

As of today, Israel approves a cap of 120,000 work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank, but in practice only 92,000 receive authorization.

Currently, there are 150,000 Palestinians that don't qualify for a work permit "automatically" based on their place of residence, or because of a family relation to someone who is identified with a terror group, even if that relative is not a member of their immediate family.

A security source told Haaretz that residents of the Jenin refugee camp – where the shooter who carried out the terror attack in Tel Aviv on Thursday came from – have a hard time obtaining permits due to where they live. "These criteria leave out 20 percent of the Palestinian population eligible for work," the source said, "They don't work, can't make a living and are exposed to terror organizations that are only looking to take them in."

Some 40,000 to 50,000 Palestinians come into Israel illegally to work via holes in the separation barrier, as the pay in Israel is four times higher than in the Palestinian Authority territory.

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