update deskIsrael at War

65,000 foreigners to replace Palestinian construction workers

Before Oct. 7, more than 95,000 Palestinians worked in Israel's building sector.

A construction site in Shiloh in the Binyamin region of Samaria, June 21, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
A construction site in Shiloh in the Binyamin region of Samaria, June 21, 2023. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Israel will work to bring in 65,000 foreign workers from India, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan to replace Palestinian construction laborers amid the war with Hamas, the Prime Minister’s Office announced on Sunday.

Hamas killed around 1,200 people, including foreign workers, in a massive attack launched from Gaza on Oct. 7, which included the firing of thousands of rockets and the infiltration of terrorist forces.

Before the attacks, some 190,000 Palestinians, nearly all from Judea and Samaria, were employed throughout Israel. More than 95,000 of them worked in construction.

In addition, thousands of foreign workers fled the country, while many Israelis have been called up for reserve duty, leading to a situation where half of Israel’s building sites have been closed down.

The new batches of foreign workers are expected to touch down in Tel Aviv in the coming weeks as Jerusalem aims to avoid a dramatic rise in real estate prices, the Construction and Housing Ministry said on Sunday.

An official in the Prime Minister’s Office declined to say on Monday whether the decision to recruit workers in India, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan reflected a policy change going forward.

In late October, Israel authorized the entry of 8,000 Arab workers from Judea and Samaria amid a severe shortage of labor. With the approval of security services, Palestinians were dispatched to “vital” industrial areas, food factories, medical facilities and burial societies, an official told JNS.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that it is considering a pilot to admit additional Palestinian workers aged 45 and older who have undergone security screening and hold existing entry permits.

Plans to let in even more Palestinians have been met with dismay by coalition and opposition lawmakers alike.

In a December vote, the measure was opposed by almost all 15 members of the Socioeconomic Cabinet, which is smaller than the full government but includes the finance and economy ministers.

“Letting workers from the territory of an enemy population into Israel during a war is a terrible mistake that will cost blood,” Minister-without-Portfolio Gideon Sa’ar said at the time.

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