Daily Israel Report

Israel Replacing Illegal African Workers with Jordanians

Israel issues 500 extra work permits for Jordanians to work in Eilat hotels, as crackdown on infiltrators fuels manpower shortage.
By Yaakov Levi
First Publish: 6/29/2014, 1:37 PM

Illegal African immigrants
Illegal African immigrants
Israel news photo: Flash 90

The government on Sunday authorized issuing an additional 500 work permits for Jordanian citizens to work in hotels in Eilat. The 500 would join about 1,000 workers who are already employed in Israeli hotels in the southern resort city. The increase is subject to approval by the Finance Ministry.

Eilat hotel owners and managers have long complained about how tough it is to get workers for hotels, who do difficult minimum-wage jobs in the kitchen, pool and recreation areas, and room-cleaning departments of hotels. In a recent letter to Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, Eilat Hotel Association director Haim Salimi warned of a “collapse” of Eilat's leisure industry before the summer vacation season due to the shortage.

Exacerbating the crisis has been the drying up of African workers. Many of the illegal African refugees who entered Israel worked in Eilat hotels, but with the government rounding up illegals and shutting off the Sinai border, African workers have been in short supply.

Under the worker program, the Jordanian workers gather at the Eilat border crossing, where they are checked by security, and are bused to their hotels. They must remain on the premises for their shifts, after which they are transported home. The workers do not remain in Israel for more than a few days at a time, and then only with a permit.

In a statement, the government said that the decision was made as part of Israel's commitment to help Jordanian economy, thus ensuring greater regional stability.

Earlier Sunday, former National Security Council director Yaakov Amidror said that if Jordan requested Israeli assistance in preventing its border with Iraq from being overrun by forces belong to to ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, then Israel would have little choice but to help. “It's not just in Jordan's interest, but in Israel's as well to work together to solve this problem.”

Several years ago, a gunman opened fire at an Israeli Border Guard patrol from the Jordanian side of the border north of Eilat.Border Guards returned fire. No one was injured in the incident.

Israel and Jordan have had a peace treaty in place since 1994, but it is generally considered a “cold peace,” with many Jordanians complaining about the treaty and the Jordanian parliament - largely symbolic in the absolute Hashemite monarchy - regularly calling on it to be cancelled.