West Bank closure will shut down 67% of construction sites in Israel

Palestinian youths from the village of Deir Nizam, northwest of Ramallah, try to remove cement blocks from the village entrance (Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  March 11, 2020

An Israeli closure of the occupied West Bank in response to the coronavirus crisis will be a disaster for the country’s construction business, reported Globes.

According to Israel Builders Association President Raul Srugo: “A closure will mean that 70,000 Palestinian workers will be unable to work in Israel, and that will shut down two-thirds of all projects in Israel almost completely.”

“This will have a far-reaching effect, even more than what is happening in the civil aviation and tourism industries. The damage to the construction sector will be enormous,” he added.

“What I am trying to do now is prevent a closure on the territories,” affirmed Srugo.

The comments demonstrate the dependency of the Israeli construction business on Palestinian labour, and the consequences of the closure of Bethlehem being extended more broadly (Srugo noted that “8,000 Palestinian workers” come from the city).

Srugo also told Globes that 500 workers from China who went on vacation in January “did not return, and we are starting to feel the effect”.

According to the report, the heads of the Israel Builders Association met MK Nir Barkat last week “in an attempt to deliver a clear message – a closure on Judea and Samaria [the occupied West Bank] means an immediate halt at a large proportion of the thousands of building sites all over Israel.”

Yigal Govrin, Israel Association of Construction and Infrastructure Engineers chair and Waxman Govrin Geva Engineering co-owner told the site: “The big question is how long the event will continue. If the crisis persists, the problems will increase.”

“You have to look at what stage each project is in. Projects in the early stages are less vulnerable at this point, but if you are in the advanced stages, the picture changes.”

“We are already experiencing problems caused by delay in the supply chain for building materials, while there are problems with the alternatives to China. Italy is not an alternative, and the problem also exists in Turkey.

There is already the beginning of unfair exploitation of the situation through price hikes of building materials. There are suppliers who are grabbing this opportunity.”