Israel will be “welcoming” tens of thousands of Palestinian construction workers in the coming months, said Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon. Kachlon made the comment at a gathering of contractors in Yerushalayim over the weekend, the business daily Calcalist reported.
Kachlon told contractors that he had met with top officials in the Palestinian Authority in recent weeks, who expressed great interest in the program. Kachlon said he would import the workers from PA-controlled areas of Yehudah and Shomron, disputing comments made previously by Avigdor Yitzchaki, head of housing issues in the Finance Ministry, who said that some of the workers would come from Gaza as well.
Kachlon told the contractors that the IDF had received extra funds to arrange for the admission, transport and security of Palestinian construction workers at building sites. In addition, a training center would be opened for the workers.
The workers are needed to work on the massive construction projects that have already been approved under the “Buyer’s Price” (Mechir Lamishtaken) program, in which contractors bid for land parcels by guaranteeing the lowest price per square meter on apartments. In return, the contractors get the parcels for a heavily discounted price, and can build other homes at a higher standard which they can sell on the open market.
The government had hoped to bring in workers from China to work on construction of those apartments. Last September the government approved the importation of thousands of Chinese construction workers, but the Chinese government has not yet approved the workers’ migration, because no agreement has been signed guaranteeing the workers’ rights. Kachlon told the contractors that “things may be starting to move” regarding the Chinese workers, and that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu had been in direct contact with Chinese leaders on the matter.