Daily Israel Report

No More Arab Workers in Judea and Samaria?

The Palestinian Authority plans to prevent its residents from working in the Jewish towns of Judea and Samaria.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 3/8/2010, 11:10 AM / Last Update: 3/8/2010, 11:02 AM

The Palestinian Authority is planning to prevent its residents from working in the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria – if a legislative proposal submitted by its finance minister passes, which appears likely.

Hassan Abu Libda, responsible for the PA's finance ministry, is the sponsor of the bill. Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) is expected to sign the bill into law by the end of the current month.

"My nation's people are contributing to the settlements," Abu Libda said, "and my bill is designed to target [and stop] this contribution."

PA workers in Jewish communities in Yesha (Judea and Samaria) are a common sight, especially in construction. Many thousands of PA Arabs count on the work they perform in the Jewish towns to support their families.

On the other hand, Arab labor serves Jewish interests as well, some say, in that it provides relatively cheap labor for jobs that most Jews are not interested in. Some, however, see the latest development as a blessing in disguise for Jews; see below.

Arabs Angry at PA
Yehuda Cohen, manager of a plant in the Barkan industrial zone near Ariel, told Army Radio, “The Arabs who work for me are angry at the PA [for this initiative], and they say they will try to get to work anyway. They want to known how they are supposed to support their families if they lose their jobs… In addition, I’m angry at the idea because we work together and we are friends, and the PA is now destroying these bridges for peace.”

Yossi Gordon, head of the Israel Building Contractors Association, said, “We have 16,000 PA legal workers, in addition to thousands of illegal workers who come every day… Each worker supports five families, and for every worker who leaves, there are another 2-3 who want to take their place – so I don’t think this idea by the PA will actually be able to work.”

PA Campaign Against Israel
The PA, under the leadership of prime minister Salam Fayyad, widely admired in the West as a “pragmatic moderate,” has also begun a campaign of boycotting and burning Jewish-made produce. MK Uri Ariel, who has called for a counter-boycott of PA-made items and workers, says, “Let’s make no mistake: They’re trying to boycott not only the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, but all of Israel. This is a serious matter, and it must be dealt with seriously.”     

Only Jewish Labor!
Neriah Ofan of Yitzhar, who runs a campaign promoting exclusively Jewish labor, reacted with restraint to the news. “More important than what [the Arab side] says is what we say,” he told Israel National News. He agrees that anything that will bring about less Arab entrenchment in the Land of Israel is a good thing, even if it might cause a slowdown in the building of Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria: “What’s important to me now is that we build our cohesiveness. Physically, we have grown sufficiently, and now it’s time to prepare ourselves for the fight that will come; I’m ready for the fight.”

Ofan noted that there is a class issue involved here. The PA used to be more dependent on the work in Judea and Samaria, “but now, because of international and Israeli aid, the middle class is fairly strong, and it doesn’t care that much about the thousands of PA manual day-laborers who support their families by working in Judea and Samaria…”