Guest-workers undercut Palestinians

Gunmen in the Gaza strip yesterday shot two Israeli security guards, killing one and seriously wounding the other. The attack on the guards, who were escorting two petrol tankers, makes it less likely that Israel will end the ban on Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza entering Israel to work or study. The shooting is likely further to poison relations between the Israeli government and the PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, who took over control of Gaza last May. Speaking to high school students in Gaza just after the attack, Mr Arafat said: "These criminalattempts will not pass without punishment." He said the aim of the attack was to stop Israel ending the ban on entry of Palestinian workers into Israel from Gaza which he is to raise at a meeting with Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, on Thursday.

Ever since the Beit Lid bomb which killed 21 Israelis, 55,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza had been stopped from working in Israel where they once earned $700,000 a day. This is vital income for the depressed Palestinian economy, with unemployment in Gaza running at 55 per cent and 42 per cent in the West Bank. "The closure is collective punishment," said Mohammed Shtayyeh, a Palestinian economist. The ban also stopped people attending the main Palestinian hospitals in Jerusalem and universities on the West Bank.

Palestinians fear they will be permanently displaced by workers from Romania, Poland or Thailand. A week after the Beit Lid bomb, the Israeli cabinet authorised the import of another 6,000 foreign workers. People living close to some of the cheaper hotels in Jerusalem already complain about drunken sprees by foreign guest workers. In the Armenian quarter of the old city ,a housewife said: "I have to step over the bodies of Romanians lying dead drunk in the street." The Central Bureau of Statistics says it does not know how many foreign workers are in the country because many are here semi-legally. But Mr Rabin has called for up to 25,000 foreign workers to be brought into Israel, not a large number given that the total labour force is almost two million. Some Israelis express surprise about why they need any non-Israeli labour since the unemployment rate at the end of last year was 10 per cent and there is still heavy immigration from the former Soviet Union.

According to official figures released yesterday, 79,800 immigrants came to Israel in 1994, 68,000 from the former Soviet Union. However, Palestinians work largely in the building trade or at picking fruit or flowers, while 70 per cent of the immigrants come from a professional or technical background.

Mr Shtayyeh says the threat to bring in cheap guest workers - as in the Arab oil states - is empty because Palestinian labour is so cheap, costing the employer "one-third of what he would spend to have an Israeli perform the same job". He says a Thai or Romanian also has to be housed while Palestinians commute from their homes. That the government is looking for ways to prosecute Israeli employers who sneak Palestinian workers into the country gives support to the idea that there is still strong demand for their labour.

But Eli Sagi, an economics consultant in Tel Aviv, is not so sure. He says frequent closures of the West Bank and Gaza have made Israeli employers chary of employing Palestinians and the number is already well down from the 120,000 who worked in Israel as recently as 1993.

Mr Sagi said that he believed the withdrawal of Palestinian labour has "a very minor effect on the Israeli economy but is devastating for them. It only really affects our construction sector. It might produce some housing delays, but fruit and vegetableswill not rot in the fields".

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape