The Case for Palestinian Workers
By: Danny Rubinstein Translated from Calcalist (Israel).
It's about time the Palestinian workers are brought back to the Israeli market. Not all the gates have to be wide-open, the way it used to be until 1993, when there was no road block or any single checkpoint from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip to the Druze village of Majdal Shams in the Northern Golan Heights; and not all the restrictions currently in force should be lifted at one and the same time. Yet, it would be advisable for Israel to adopt a clear-cut outline for the replacement of the foreign workers by Palestinians from the territories. It would be to the benefit of the Palestinians as well as to the advantage of Israel itself, as the Palestinian workers are expected to return home at the end of the day and are thus unlikely to be a burden on Israeli society. What's more, unlike migrant workers, they would not send their wages abroad to their origin countries, but rather spend it locally and thus enrich us [Israelis].
About This Article
Palestinian workers are confronted with both concrete and bureaucratic barriers when seeking work in Israel, and Danny Rubinstein argues that the state must ease their re-entry into the workforce to replace foreign laborers.Publisher: Calcalist (Israel)
The return of the Palestinian worker
Author: Danny Rubinstein
First Published: October 25, 2012
Posted on: October 27 2012
Translated by: Hanni Manor
The government granted entry permits to thousands of Palestinian workers
The [Israeli labor rights organization] Kav LaOved (Worker's Hotline) released last week [the third week of October] survey findings showing that Palestinian workers employed in Israel are underprivileged in terms of both wages and work conditions. Many of them find themselves waging exhausting struggles vis-à-vis the [Israeli] bureaucracy and are exposed to threats and blackmail on the part of employers and middlemen.
It seems that the government itself has realized that it should open the gates to a larger number of Palestinians seeking work in Israel. Just a few days ago, the government granted entry permits to 5,000 Palestinian construction workers from the West Bank. (The entry of workers from Gaza to Israel has been banned since 2006.)
Some 80,000 Palestinians are currently working in Israel; about 60,000 of them have lawful work permits, which are limited to four sectors — construction, agriculture, industry and services.
The unemployment rate in the West Bank has increased recently to 17%, bringing the number of unemployed up to roughly 125,000. (In Gaza, the number of unemployed is twice as large.) Employment in Israel is all the more attractive for the Palestinians as the average salary of a Palestinian worker in Israel is at least double the average salary offered by [Palestinian] employers in the West Bank.
Palestinian workers find themselves tied to their employers
How can a Palestinian find work in Israel? First, he has to find an Israeli employer who would be interested in his services. This is usually done through family members, friends or middlemen. Once he finds such an employer and receives a work permit, he is barred from changing employers.
To receive a work permit, the [Palestinian] worker has to be at least 35 years old, married and with a child [or children]. In the agricultural sector, work permits are granted to younger workers as well. The employer has to appeal to the relevant authorities to open a "worker's file" for the potential employee, for the purpose of wage payment. Palestinians defined as “ineligible for security reasons” cannot receive a work permit. Family members of Palestinians hurt by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) also come under this definition, being held suspect as “potential avengers”. Palestinians who committed crimes in Israel are deemed “ineligible due to criminal history”. Palestinians who have unsettled debts in Israel are also considered “ineligible” for a work permit. Palestinians found ineligible for a work permit may appeal to the court. However, Palestinians can find work in the [West Bank] settlements, where law enforcement is not as strict as in Israel proper. This holds true primarily for agricultural workers in the Jordan valley, where even children are employed, under extremely difficult conditions.
Palestinians seeking work in Israel may opt to enter the country illegally, but in that case, they stand to earn less and they would not be entitled to the social security benefits for which an employer has to pay on behalf of his employee.
The various restrictions, above all the binding to the employer, enable the latter to ill treat his workers, to threaten to stop appealing for work permits on their behalf, to request his workers to pay him for the service he is doing them appealing for work permits, and to report less than the actual number of work days for which they deserve to be paid, so as to evade mandatory social security tax on behalf of his workers.
Facilitation of the work arrangements applying to the Palestinians would make it easier for all the parties concerned, Israelis and Palestinians alike, and forestall injustice.
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