As the government seeks to ramp up construction in order to reduce prices, it authorized on Sunday the entry of 2,000 additional foreign construction workers. The current 6,000 workers will grow to 8,000 within the coming weeks.
In addition to the immediate increase, the government also authorized an automatic increase in the number of work visas granted to foreign construction workers in the coming years. Over the next three years, an additional 2,000 to 2,500 workers will be admitted annually, so that by 2019, there will be 15,000 foreign building trades workers in Israel.
In addition to those workers, about 30,000 Palestinian Authority Arab workers currently do construction work in Israel. This is the highest number of PA Arabs to work in the industry since the mid-1990s, before the onslaught known as the Oslo War or "Second Intifada," in which terrorists posing as Arab workers imposed a reign of terror upon Israelis, killing hundreds and maiming thousands in a seemingly endless string of bombings and shootings. The terror continued unabated until the IDF embarked on Operation Defensive Shield (Homat Magen) and built the security fence in Judea and Samaria.
Construction industry officials expressed support for Sunday's announcement, but said that in the past the government had made similar decisions, only to scrap them afterwards – resulting in a lack of manpower.
Earlier Sunday, Economics Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) and Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) both signed an agreement with the Association of National Builders and the Construction Workers' Union Sunday to reward Jewish employees in the construction business. The program, which will be enacted within the next several weeks, will absorb about 2,000 new Israeli workers in the mostly-Arab construction industry, and would allow them a starting salary of at least 9,000 shekel per month ($2,602; significantly higher than minimum wage - ed.). Government funding for the initiative is estimated at over 90 million shekel (approx. 26 million dollars), and is designed to help skilled Israelis integrate into the industry, proponents say.