Demand Up for Palestinian Workers

YERUSHALAYIM -

A shortage of skilled workers in Israeli industry has led to a request from the government for an increase in the number of work permits for Palestinians, Globes reported on Wednesday.

Association of Craft and Industry in Israel – Small Enterprises (ACI) president Yossi Alkoby made the request in a letter to the Population and Immigration Authority, citing an acute shortfall in qualified people in the carpentry, metals and chip processing sectors.

Alkoby charged that these sectors have suffered from discrimination in the dissemination of work permits:

“In recent years, we have constantly repeated that industrialists are hit by a lack of professional employees and that there is great demand from businesses for Palestinian workers, especially in carpentry, and services for construction and metals. There is severe discrimination in the allocation of permits for industry and services compared with sectors like construction and agriculture,” he said.

Out of about 80,000 permits issued to Palestinians for work in Israel, only 5.5 percent of them, about 4,500 workers, are designated for industries and services.

Alkoby said, “Processes are underway that will improve and streamline technological education and professional training in Israel but the final result in terms of professional workers for industry won’t be seen in the coming few years.”

In the meantime, he called for the number of permits for work in industry and services to be raised to 9,000.

The ministry’s response was non-committal, saying only that “the decision on allocating foreign workers and Palestinians and the numbers required is taken by the government in coordination with the relevant ministries.”

No mention was made of security considerations, which have weighed significantly in the granting of work permits to Palestinians.

Last September, the terror attack at Har Hadar in which three Israelis were killed, which was carried out at a checkpoint where thousands of Palestinian workers enter Israel daily, raised anew the issue of permits.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in the wake of the attack that “we need to reconsider our approach to these permits.”

A temporary closure of Har Hadar to Palestinian workers followed that incident, in which hundreds of Palestinians were barred from entering the town.

Since then, intense pressure has been brought to bear on the government to improve security across Yehudah and Shomron. Last week a commitment was made in writing to invest 800 million shekels in bypass roads and other measures.