Israel to Add 2,000 Work Permits For Palestinians From Gaza Strip
Israel on Thursday announced a decision to boost the quota of work permits for Palestinians from the Gaza Strip by an additional 2,000, taking the total to 14,000.
Major General Ghasan Alyan, who heads the unit for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, also known as COGAT, announced that the decision will be taken following a security assessment.
“All civilian measures towards the Gaza Strip are contingent on the continued maintenance of security stability over time, and their expansion will be assessed according to the situation,” COGAT said in a statement.
The expansion follows a government plan to gradually allow a total of 20,000 Gazan workers into Israel as the security situation allows. For comparison, a year ago about 7,000 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip carried permits to work in Israel.
The civilian steps seek to improve the impoverished economic situation of the Gazan population, which has suffered severely since the Israeli disengagement from the Strip in 2005, and which has deteriorated even further since the Hamas terror group took control of the Palestinian coastal enclave in 2007. Israel is hoping that a rise in the number of work permits for Gazans and an improvement in their economic situation will help maintain calm on Israel’s southern border and weaken public support for Hamas.
“I believe that while this move is very important for the 2,000 families of the lucky workers from Gaza who will find much better paying jobs in Israel than in Gaza, yet at the macro level its impact will be limited,” Haggay Etkes, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), told The Algemeiner in e-mailed comments.
According to Etkes, a former Bank of Israel official in charge of relations with the Palestinian economy, the labor force in Gaza amounted to 523,000 people, of whom 46 percent, or 243,000 people, were unemployed.
“In other words, the increase of 2,000 permits is equivalent to 0.4 percent of the Gazan labor force,” he said. “The increase of 2,000 permits could reduce unemployment by about 0.5 percent from a very high level of 46 percent.”
According to INSS research, the reported daily wage of a Palestinian worker employed in Israel amounts to an average of $78 (269 shekels). In comparison, workers in the Gaza Strip who find a job earn 37 percent less in the public sector and 13 percent less in the private sector of the average counterpart salary in Israel.
Thursday’s move comes more than a year after the 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas militant group last May which resulted in tight controls over Gaza’s borders, halting exports, restricting imports of raw materials and limiting the area that Palestinians are permitted to fish.