Cabinet to vote on plan to increase number of Palestinian workers

Israel’s cabinet will likely vote within two weeks on a proposal to allow another 33,000 Palestinian construction workers into Israel as the government seeks to ease the economic hardship that some officials suggest has helped fuel the recent wave of Arab terrorist attacks.

Some 43,000 Palestinians already work in the construction sector, which does not usually attract Israeli labor.

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon told a news conference on Monday that he planned to bring the proposal to the cabinet for a vote this coming Sunday or the following Sunday.

Police say most of the Arab attacks since October have been carried out by Palestinians who cross the Green Line from Judea and Samaria without permits.

IDF officials have suggested that improving the economic conditions for Palestinians could help alleviate the hardship that is partly fueling the attacks.

In Judea and Samaria, about 30% of Arabs between the ages of 20 and 29 are unemployed, according to data from the Palestinian Statistics Bureau for the third quarter of 2015.

“We will get to more than 70,000 Palestinian construction workers,” Kahlon said, adding that funds would also be increased to allow for a smoother border crossing from Palestinian areas into Israel.

About 55,000 Palestinians have permits to work in Israel, mostly in construction and agriculture, while another 30,000 undocumented Palestinian laborers also enter Israel daily.

Kahlon also said he was committed to re-implementing a two-year government budget for 2017-2018, while there were no plans to further reduce taxes despite solid tax collections.

He said a rise in the housing purchase tax to 10% from 8% in 2015 that was aimed at reducing the amount of home purchases for investment had worked and boosted state coffers by 1.2 billion shekels ($309 million), money used to pay for soldiers’ pay hikes and allocations to the elderly.