Middle East Monitor / July 28, 2021
Israel is set to increase the number of work permits granted to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank by some 16,000 in what appears to be an attempt to stabilize the PA and maintain Israel’s security.
The Palestinian Authority has been plagued by scandals, lack of legitimacy, economic challenges and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that it has sparked concern in Tel Aviv over its future.
Following the warning of US Envoy Hady Amr earlier this month that the PA is facing dangerous economic and political crises, Israel reportedly announced that would intervene to help the beleaguered authority to deal with its financial crisis. The US official called on Israel to relieve the restrictions imposed on the PA, which include the withholding of millions of dollars in tax revenues collected by the occupation state on the PA’s behalf.
Though the Palestinians are entitled to the tax money Israel uses its privileged position to squeeze out political concessions from the PA through the arrangement many consider to be one of the many bizarre relics of the Oslo Process.
Around 87,000 Palestinians work legally in Israel, according to official figures, and another 35,000 work in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Their employment is usually in low tier jobs. The vast majority work in agriculture and construction. Most of the new permits — some 15,000 — will be issued specifically for construction workers, according to the proposal. Another 1,000 will be granted for Palestinians who work at hotels across Israel.
The Israeli government led by far-right Naftali Bennett, who opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, is expected to approve the plan next week. “This step is the first in a series of steps currently being considered in talks between Palestinian and Israeli officials aimed at helping to shore up the economic fortitude of the Palestinian Authority,” Israel’s Regional Affairs Minister Issawi Frej is reported saying.
Emphasising the decisions’ positive outcome for Israeli security, the head of the Israeli military body charged with handling Palestinian civilian affairs (COGAT) Ghassan Alian said in a statement: “This measure will strengthen the Israeli and Palestinian economies, and will largely contribute to the security stability in the area of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]. Economic stability is the key to preserving security in the region.”
It’s reported that in the aftermath of Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza which killed more than 250 people including women and children, Israeli officials have repeatedly said that they hope to strengthen the beleaguered PA.
“The most desirable change in my view is to strengthen the Palestinian Authority as much as possible, and not to let Hamas be the one that sets the agenda, neither in the area of the Gaza Strip nor in Gaza itself,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz is reported saying.