BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- A meeting is expected to be held in mid-March between Palestinian and Israeli officials to develop new policies on Israel's issuance of work permits to Palestinians, aiming to improve work conditions for Palestinian workers in Israel, the Palestinian deputy minister of labor told Ma’an on Wednesday.
Nasser al-Qatami said that the ministry had presented several suggestions to Israeli authorities concerning issues with work permits, adding that Israel had approved some of the suggestions, which were expected to be confirmed during the meeting this month.
According to al-Qatami, the suggestions which have received preliminary approval included: improving the procedures at Israeli checkpoints between the occupied West Bank and Israel in 2018, consisting of a budget of 350 million shekels ($94,810,534); eliminating the “middlemen” who take advantage of Palestinians by requiring large payments for Israeli work permits and replacing them with labor offices in the West Bank tasked with permit management; allowing all employers in Israel to issue an unlimited number of permits to Palestinian workers; allowing Palestinian workers to move freely inside Israel; and extending the duration of “job-searching” permits from one to two weeks.
Al-Qatami noted that Palestinian workers who had already received permits would have them renewed in accordance with the new procedures. He also highlighted that the work permits would include construction, agriculture, and industry sector employment, while Palestinian merchants would receive their permits from Palestinian labor offices to maintain their right to work in Israel.
He encouraged all Palestinian workers who want work permits to head to Palestinian labor offices in order to register their information.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians seek work inside Israel and its illegal settlements due to high unemployment rates in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the nearly half-century Israeli military occupation has stifled economic growth.
While the Palestinian Ministry of Labor estimates that some 200,0000 Palestinians work in Israel, Israeli statistics only report 110,000 Palestinian workers, al-Qatami said.
Unlike Palestinians with Jerusalem IDs, Palestinians in the West Bank must apply for a special work permit to enter Israel for employment. Israel also places strict conditions on Palestinians seeking work that prevent many from obtaining permits, including limiting Palestinian employment to specific sectors in the Israeli economy based on quotas of Palestinian workers in each sector and imposing age restrictions that block many young Palestinians from obtaining permits.
Palestinians with Israeli work permits are also only permitted to travel to and from their work sites, and are not allowed to reside in Israel closer to their work.