A Bedouin resident of a village in southern Israel is said to have been the mastermind behind a network of traffickers who brought in hundreds of illegal Arab workers into Israel. The Bedouin has been arrested and is being questioned on multiple charges of assisting illegal Arabs to enter Israel, money laundering, filing false documentation, and a series of other crimes, police said.
According to police, the Bedouin had put together an elaborate scheme whereby he set up a phony company that provided transportation services to schoolchildren and workers. Police had received intelligence about the operation and began surveilling the Bedouin – and just a day after officially opening the investigation, they nabbed three buses full of illegal Arab workers, along with a Mercedes Benz vehicle owned by the Arab carrying even more workers. All the vehicles have been impounded.
Last week, the Knesset passed on its final readings a law that significantly increases the penalties levied against employers who allow illegal Arab workers into their businesses. The new sanctions would increase fines against individual employers to NIS 226,000 per incident of employing illegal Palestinian workers, compared to the maximum NIS 75,000 now. In addition, employers could be sentenced to up to four years in prison, and courts would have the right to close a business down altogether for up to 60 days as part of the penalties.
The law’s quick advancement and passage was prompted by a government decision to increase the penalties against such businesses after the terror attack in Tel Aviv and Jaffa in which one person was killed and 11 wounded. During hearings on new measures against these employers, MKs reviewed statistics that showed the correlation between terrorism and illegal Arabs. Nearly half the terror attacks within the 1948 Green Line armistice borders were carried out by illegal Arab workers. A total of 73 attacks have taken place inside Israel proper since Oct. 1, and of those, 27 were carried out by illegal workers.
Over the past week, police have arrested hundreds of illegal Arab workers, as well as their Israeli employers – and shut down nearly a dozen businesses for at least 60 days, as the new legislation empowers police to do.