Israelis who have been impressed at the relative speed with which homes are built abroad – as opposed to the lengthy construction process in Israel – may soon have the opportunity to be impressed at home as well. A report on Channel Two Sunday night said that Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon and Housing Minister Yoav Galant have decided to allow foreign construction firms to enter the Israeli market. The companies, the pair hope, will be able to build more homes more quickly, increasing the supply of apartments and thus reducing their cost.
The report comes after Kachlon decided to postpone for at least a week a request that the government issue 33,000 permits for workers from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas to work in Israel. Kachlon had planned to make the request at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
Currently, some 43,000 PA Arabs work in Israel proper, most of them in construction. The addition of 33,000 workers would nearly double that amount. But there has been growing opposition to the idea of importing yet more PA workers, given the recent terror wave, and although Kachlon’s declared reason for postponing the request was technical – because of a lack of workers and facilities to process the workers – it is likely that there would be significant opposition in the government to the move, which would nearly double the number of PA workers currently in Israel.
Five foreign companies would be chosen to build projects in Israel, but they would be placed under significant restrictions: They could only act as contractors for Israeli building firms, they would be allowed to bring in to Israel only up to 6,000 workers, and they could only work here for a period of five years.
Channel Two also reported that talks with the Chinese government about the mass import of construction workers have completely broken down. The Chinese were said to fear the possibility that Israel would assign the workers to projects in Yehudah and Shomron or in Yerushalayim, creating potential legal issues for Chinese workers who would be laboring in “occupied” territories.