The government voted Sunday morning to approve an increase in the number of work permits issued for Palestinian Authority residents – but decided not to define the increase as a “good-will gesture” linked to the ongoing Israel-PA negotiations.
The decision not to tie the work permit increase to negotiations was made at the request of ministers from the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party.
The Bayit Yehudi ministers clarified that they were not opposed to the decision itself. Minister of Economy and Trade Naftali Bennett expressed strong support for the increase, saying it was an example of a real step toward peace.
“I know there are those who just want to ‘get rid of’ the Palestinians. I am not in their camp… But I believe in peace between people, not the ‘peace’ of drinking cocktails in Oslo,” Bennett said.
He continued, “From my perspective, giving them work permits – meaning giving them a salary that is three times what they would get in the West Bank – isn’t a ‘gesture,’ it’s the economic peace that I believe in and strive for.”
Bennett went on to explain why his party had asked to separate the decision from the “gestures” made to the PA to encourage negotiations.
“I think the responsible thing is to distinguish between the diplomatic process and between a goal we all share – economic cooperation that ultimately will make the conflict with the Palestinians manageable,” he explained.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni opposed the distinction Bennett proposed, and sought to define the work permits as a “good-will gesture” as per the original plan. However, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu decided to side with the Bayit Yehudi ministers, and to leave the definition of the change as a “good-will gesture” out of the final decision.