סמדר פרי
Smadar Perry
Photo: Yariv Katz
Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip

Israel hurting itself by freezing Gaza work permits

Analysis: Ban on Palestinian workers entering country in response to Hamas-driven terror wave and security tensions only aggravates distress in enclave, and Israelis may soon feel its consequences

Smadar Perry |
Published: 05.13.22, 13:57
For merchants living in the Gaza Strip, receiving an Israeli work permit is quite the process.
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  • Every unemployed Palestinian in Gaza who wishes to work on the Israeli side of the border must submit a request to the labor office in the Strip, which is fully operated by Hamas.
    4 View gallery
    צדעת ארגוני טרור בחאם יונס
    צדעת ארגוני טרור בחאם יונס
    Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip
    (Photo: AFP)
    The request is reviewed and transferred to Iyad Nasr, the official Fatah representative in Gaza, who then reports it to head of the General Authority for Civil Affairs and the Coordination and Cooperation Committee Hussein al-Sheikh in Ramallah.
    Sounds far-fetched? The reason for this tedious process is that Al-Sheikh has close ties with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, thus enjoying preferential treatment from Israel. He serves as one of the primary mediators between the Israeli authorities and the PA on all civilian matters in the Palestinian territories.
    Al-Sheikh is also the only Palestinian minister whose role is to maintain close ties with key figures in Israel. He is the one who transfers the list of worker requests from the Gaza Strip to the Israeli security forces for examination.
    Once approved, workers are then granted a license and required to pay taxes on the profits made on the Israeli side of the border to the civil affairs office in the Gaza Strip. At least a third of these taxes go to Hamas.
    4 View gallery
    פועלים פלסטינים חוצים מרצועת עזה לישראל במעבר ארז
    פועלים פלסטינים חוצים מרצועת עזה לישראל במעבר ארז
    Palestinians waiting to cross the Gaza-Israeli border
    (Photo: AFP)
    So far, 2,000 requests by Palestinian workers have been approved by Israel. But, in the last week, since the deadly terror attack in the predominantly Haredi city of Elad - in which two Palestinians stabbed to death three people with an axe - all work permits have been frozen.
    My old friend in Gaza, a senior academic, says it's a good thing the terrorists who had carried out the attack were caught alive, because had they been killed, they would have become Palestinian heroes.
    But once they're under investigation, new details can be revealed on how they managed to execute the attack and whether they had accomplices. My friend finds it hard to believe that Hamas in Gaza had something to do with the attack, even if its leader Yahya Sinwar recently called on West Bank's Palestinian youth to wage attacks "with axes and knives".
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    מחכים להגשת הבקשה לאישור עבודה
    מחכים להגשת הבקשה לאישור עבודה
    Palestinians in Gaza Strip waiting to apply for work permits in Israel
    He also told me that Gazans have found ways to bypassing frequent power outages to watch the Israeli news. "Long before the European networks and Al Jazeera were broadcasting here, we were following the reports from Israel. There is no ban on watching Israeli TV broadcasts or listening to the news on the radio. If there was a survey about the most listened radio channel in the Gaza Strip, Kol Yisrael (Voice of Israel) - Israel's public domestic and international radio service - in Arabic, would have taken first place," he says laughingly.
    It is also surprising to learn that Gaza's elite, including academics, merchants, and other officials are in close contact with the Hamas leadership in the Strip.
    "We advise them, but they don't always follow our recommendations," my friend says. But what concerns this group of people the most is the high unemployment rate in Gaza, which stands at over 40 percent and includes mostly young people. If Qatar transfers $19 million a month, the work in Israel can add another million.
    4 View gallery
    מחכים להגשת הבקשה לאישור עבודה
    מחכים להגשת הבקשה לאישור עבודה
    Palestinians apply for work permits in Israel
    My friend also says there is a major discrepancy between the cost of living and wage in the Palestinian enclave. The goods they buy at the Kerem Shalom border crossing are priced according to Israel's price tags, but the workers receive third-world salaries, based on the rates in Gaza. "When I arrive at a store, the prices are almost as high as in Tel Aviv, but the wages are extremely low. It is more expensive in Gaza than in Egypt or Jordan, and people only buy what is necessary."
    A frequent visitor to my friend's house in Gaza wished to emphasize that he has no problem talking to Israelis. "We are torn from the rest of the world," he says.
    "There is no country that will provide us major aid. Neither Qatar with their small donations, nor Egypt - which is mostly busy mediating. Not even Jordan, which constantly fears the idea that Hamas will make its way into its territory. As a result, the only solution left is to continue talking with Israel, at least your country understands our situation."
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