Attack Raises Concerns Over Palestinian Work Permit Program

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli security officer at the scene where a Palestinian terrorist opened fire on Israelis at Har Adar, killing three, Tuesday. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The fact that the terrorist who killed three Israelis Tuesday morning outside the town of Har Adar raises serious questions regarding Israel’s policy of granting work permits to Palestinian Authority residents, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said in the wake of the attack.

“In an era when attacks are based on ideology and incitement in social media it is not always clear where the next attack will come from,” Erdan told reporters at the scene of the attack. “We need to reconsider our approach to these permits.”

The attack occurred at a checkpoint through which thousands of Palestinians pass daily from their homes in PA-controlled areas to jobs inside Israeli towns and cities. Some 75,000 such workers enter Israel every day.

Minister Erdan said that there had been no warning or indication that the attack was to take place – and part of the reason for that was because the terrorist did not fit the profile of terrorists who have carried out attacks in recent years. Most of those were young, single, and fervently Muslim, and had entered Israel illegally – while the terrorist who carried out Tuesday’s attack was a 37-year-old father of four, with an Israeli work permit.

The terrorist was part of a group that had been ushered into Har Adar via the checkpoint, from where they were to proceed to their jobs. He was the last in the queue, and had raised suspicions of security personnel, who questioned him while he was still outside the checkpoint fence. The terrorist then pulled out a pistol and shot four security personnel, before being shot and killed himself.

Most of the others who had passed through the fence had already gone to their jobs. Channel Two reported that security officials had called up all of the homes, businesses and factories where the Palestinians were employed, and asked their employers to send the workers back to Har Adar, where they were to be questioned on what they might have heard about the background of the attack.

Hundreds of other workers who were to be admitted into Israel when the attack occurred were sent back to their homes, and officials said that it was likely that many of the workers who were being questioned would be sent home as well.

A general closure was to be instituted Thursday night, with permits suspended over Yom Kippur, but officials said that it was likely that the closure would be instituted beginning Wednesday, as officials decide further changes to the permit program.

According to Channel Two, Israeli officials are very reluctant to suspend or limit the work permit program, as it is seen as a stabilizing influence among Palestinians. PA Arabs who work in Israel have generally not been involved in terror attacks, with just one – the attacker who killed Israelis at Beit Panorama in Tel Aviv in 2015 – entering Israel on a work permit. In the wake of that attack, Israel suspended all work permits for all Palestinians for a week.

While Gaza Arabs were celebrating the attack Tuesday, Channel Two said, PA Arabs were much less enthusiastic, as they feared that the attack would convince more Israelis to further limit the work permit program – which would negatively affect their incomes and financial situations.

Channel Two reported that the terrorist had worked for the Har Adar local council, but was fired four years ago. However, he apparently had another job working as a handyman for a Har Adar family. Speaking to Channel Two, a member of the family that employed him said that the terrorist “was like a member of the family, he would come and go freely. I could never have imagined that he would carry out an attack like this. Had he come here, he might have killed us all.” While no motive has been determined, the family member said that the terrorist had recently had a fight with his wife, who had left him to go to her family in Jordan.