Israel Eyes More Entry Permits to Palestinian Workers to Calm Tensions

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters) -
Palestinian labourers wait for work on the side of a road after crossing through Israel's Eyal checkpoint (seen in the background) from the West Bank town of Qalqilya, in this June 1, 2011 file photo. Israel plans to increase the number of entry permits it grants to Palestinian workers, Palestinian and Israeli sources said on February 8, 2016, in a drive to ease economic hardship that has contributed to a wave of Palestinian attacks. REUTERS/Nir Elias/Files
Palestinian laborers wait for work on the side of a road after crossing through Israel’s Eyal checkpoint, in this 2011 file photo. (Reuters/Nir Elias/Files)

Israel plans to increase the number of entry permits it grants to Palestinian workers, Palestinian and Israeli sources said on Monday, in a drive to ease economic hardship that has contributed to a wave of Palestinian attacks.

Publicly, the Israeli government has accused Palestinian leaders, including Mahmoud Abbas and Islamist terror groups, of inciting violence. But Israeli security officials have also cited desperation among young Palestinians who see a bleak economic future.

A Defense Ministry official confirmed a report in the Haaretz newspaper on Monday which said Israel would increase the number of work permits given to Palestinians by 30,000. “A few plans are being looked at,” a second Israeli official said.

About 55,000 Palestinians currently have permits to work in Israel, mostly in construction and agriculture, the Bank of Israel says. They must clear Israeli security checks before the documents are issued.

An additional 30,000 undocumented Palestinian laborers also enter Israel each day. The new plan would raise the number of Palestinian workers vetted by Israeli security officials.

Police say most of the near-daily Palestinian attacks since October, which have included stabbings, shootings and car ramming attacks, have been carried out by Palestinians who cross into Israel without permits from Yehudah and Shomron.

It was not immediately clear when the plan would be implemented and whether it needed final approval from Israel’s security cabinet.

The Palestinian Workers’ Union said it had received notification of the permit plan from Israel. “Workers are supposed to begin to apply for the permits,” said its secretary, Shaher Saad.