The uncertainty experienced by Palestinian workers in Israel punishes both economies

The uncertainty experienced by Palestinian workers in Israel punishes both economies

“Not only did these people end up with no income, they started starving while driving nice Maserati cars and living in two-story mansions,” says Raja Khalidi, director general of the Palestinian Institute for Economic Policy Research, known by its acronym MAS. . Across the occupied West Bank, 150,000 Palestinians who worked in Israel before the Hamas massacre are drowning in misery and despair.

Permissions have been revoked

It has been 175 days since Israel denied entry to more than 150,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank, 40,000 of whom entered without permits. The permits of the 25,000 workers in Gaza were revoked and they were forced to return to their lands besieged by bombs. Since then, most of them have joined the already alarming unemployment figures in the Palestinian economy.

At the moment, there is no possibility of their return. “Israeli society is not ready for them to come back, and they are not ready to let them do anything in Israel, and they want to exclude them from any joint activity,” says Yohanan Tzurev, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. Tel Aviv University. “For the Israeli people, all Palestinians are now terrorists,” laments Assaf Adiv, general director of the Ma’an workers’ union.

On both sides of the Green Line, both peoples suffer from this lack of trust. On the one hand, in the occupied West Bank, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs without any compensation. Adiv explained to this newspaper: “They have been renewed and there is an intention to return to Israel to work, but the checkpoints to reach their workplaces are closed.” “They have no unemployment benefits or support from the Palestinian National Authority or Israel, which left 150,000 people and their families without any source of income for six months, leading to a state of despair and extreme poverty.” Some rely on family solidarity or temporary work, but nothing resembles their lives before October 7. “In Israel, they paid ten times the amount,” Adiv recalls.

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On the other hand, the consequences for Israel are also tragic. The main sector affected was the construction sector, where 100,000 Palestinians work. At the end of last year, residential construction decreased by 95%, which led to the cessation of many works and the postponement of others. Nearly half, 40%, remain paralyzed. The 6% construction burden in the Israeli economy will cause a contraction of between 2% and 3% until a solution is reached. “Cheap Palestinian labor was necessary according to the colonial necessity of the Israeli economy,” Al-Khalidi explains to El Periodico newspaper. “Since the times before the creation of the Zionist state, Israel has actually been built by outsourcing some industrial jobs to Palestinians,” he points out.

Asian workforce

“In 2022, there were about 200,000 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank – this shows Israel’s level of dependence on cheap Palestinian labor,” the MAS director adds. Palestinian workers in Israel and illegal settlements constitute 22% of the workforce in the West Bank. Their poverty weighs heavily on their fellow citizens, as their activity represents nearly 20% of Palestinian GDP. The International Labor Organization expects unemployment rates in the West Bank and Gaza to rise to more than 50%, with the loss of 500,000 jobs. During nearly six months of war, only about 30,000 Palestinians were able to return to their jobs, most of them in illegal settlements.

Israel has tried to search for an alternative outside its borders. Currently, the quota allows the employment of 65,000 workers from Southeast Asia or Central Asia. In addition, the kidnapping and murder of Thai nationals and Filipinos working in agriculture in Israeli border communities on October 7 led to the defection of thousands of their compatriots. “Employers prefer Palestinian workers over foreigners,” Tzurev says. “They need training and this takes time.”

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