No way to help the Palestinians

The industrial zones in Judea and Samaria, whose products are to be labelled in Europe, do more good for the Palestinian economy than the EU does.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

Although there are many causes for the recent upsurge in Palestinian violence, there is no doubt that poor economic conditions are one of them. Over 25 percent of the Palestinian labor force in Judea and Samaria is unemployed. The GDP per capita there is about $4000 compared to Israel’s $25,000. The average wage there is about 87 shekels a day.

Aware of this situation the Israeli government is considering increasing the number of Palestinians who are allowed to work in Israel in the hope of improving economic conditions in Judea and Samaria. Over 100,000 such Palestinian workers are currently employed in Israel. Over 15,000 have permits to stay in Israel overnight. Should these numbers be increased?

Before the government makes a decision I would suggest that it watch the report broadcast on Channel 2 TV on the travail that Palestinian workers have to endure on their way to Israel. It involves getting up before sunrise and standing in line for hours in enclosures with thousands of others before they can finally get past the checkpoint and enter the “promise land.” Another TV report some months ago showed how Palestinian workers who have permission to stay in Israel spend their nights — in hovels, at building sites, out in the open. This is no way to make friends and influence people. Their work in Israel may give them the meager income they so desperately need —more than twice what they could earn closer to their homes if they could get work there — but it is bound to leave a very bitter taste. No bridge to good neighborly relations is to be found here.

Allowing tens of thousands of Palestinian workers to enter Israel each day is not the only way to support the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria. It is probably the worst possible way, creating feelings of rancor and frustration among those whom it is presumably meant to help. The industrial zones, like Barkan in Samaria and Ma’aleh Adumim in Judea, which provide employment for Palestinian workers living in the vicinity, are a far better way of assisting the Palestinian economy in Judea and Samaria. Over 10,000 Palestinians are currently employed in such industrial zones, earning salaries and receiving social benefits as provided by Israeli law. Their employment conditions are far superior to those of Palestinian workers crossing into Israel in the early hours of the morning and returning home at nightfall. Instead of increasing the number of Palestinians permitted to work in Israel, the government should provide incentives for more investments in these industrial zones so as to create additional employment opportunities for Palestinian workers there. These will lead to direct investments in the Palestinian economy which do not have the negative side effects that accompany the daily influx of Palestinians into Israel. This daily migration also involves security problems. Two Israelis were recently knifed to death in Tel Aviv by a Palestinian worker who had entered Israel that day with a work permit.

The EU, now facing attacks from Islamic jihadists, has, as usual, got it all wrong, when its bureaucrats call on members to label products originating in the industrial zones of Judea and Samaria, in anticipation that such products will be boycotted by European shoppers. If their plans prove to be effective they will hurt the Palestinians living in these territories, increase unemployment there, force Palestinians into lower-paying jobs and add to the masses making the trip to Israel each morning in search of work. In other words, such a move will lead to a net loss for the Palestinian economy.

The industrial zones in Judea and Samaria contribute far more to the Palestinian economy than do the subsidies provided by the EU to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Who knows how much of these subsidies go to waste there in a network of corruption? The EU would do better to encourage European shoppers to purchase products originating in the industrial zones.

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