Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

Palestinian Workers in Israeli Settlements: Their Status and Rights

Academic journal article IUP Journal of International Relations

Palestinian Workers in Israeli Settlements: Their Status and Rights

Article excerpt


After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in 1993, the economic situation in the West Bank (WB) and Gaza Strip (GS) became so difficult because of the absence of a self-sufficient economic system and complete reliance on foreign funds.1 One result of that hardship was the tendency of Palestinian workers, who could not find jobs in the WB, to move to the Israeli Occupying Authority's (IOA) settlements in the WB seeking employment opportunities there. The Palestinian workers in these settlements consist of two types: first, legal workers with Israeli permits to get there and second, illegal workers who are smuggled into these settlements.2

In 2011, 25,000 Palestinians were working in the IOA settlements in the WB, 10,000 of them were smuggled workers. In fact, the IOA was benefitting a lot from both type of workers. The economic governmental committee of the IOA stated that Palestinian workers were helping both the Israeli economy and Israeli employers.3

Historical Background

The WB Economic Situation

Amongst the Palestinian people who have been represented by the PA, there were a huge number of workers who were employed in the Israeli Settlements in the WB. The number approximately was 20,000 workers in 1993.

The Oslo Accords regulated particularly the economic relationship between the PA and the IOA. These Accords gave the IOA and the PA, the ability to establish a committee to, inter alia, manage the entrance and employment conditions of the Palestinians inside the Israeli Settlements as IOA desires. Article 11 of the Accords states that:

Recognizing the mutual benefit of cooperation in promoting the development of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel, upon the entry into force of this Declaration of Principles, an Israeli-Palestinian Economic Cooperation Committee will be established in order to develop and implement in a cooperative manner the programs identified in the protocols attached.4

In fact, the IOA systematically prevented the establishment of a Palestinian independent economy. This was done through economical agreements that laid down many restrictions and obstacles around the PA. For example, the Paris Agreement was a contractual one that regulated the labor issue between both sides.5 Article 7(1) affirms that:

[B]oth sides will attempt to maintain the normality of movement of labor between them, subject to each side's right to determine from time to time the extent and conditions of the labor movement into its area.6

The IOA's right to determine the extent of the labor movement granted it to decide significant restrictions on the Palestinian workers. One of these restrictions was regulating a quota of Palestinian workers to work in the Israeli settlements. This quota was always less than the number of unemployed Palestinians who could work in these settlements. Consequently, the number of unemployed Palestinians started to rise, and they commenced seeking jobs from Israeli employers.7

In 2011,25,000 Palestinians were working in the Israeli settlements in the WB.8 10,000 of them were illegal workers, which meant that they entered these Settlements without valid permits. This made them illegal workers in these settlements.9

The Palestinians' preference for working in Israeli settlements was supported by two factors:10 first, the significant difference between the wage in the WB and the Israeli settlements. The difference was about 2,000 shekels between both the areas; second, the continuous rise in unemployment among the Palestinians who saw working in these settlements as their only option (around 125,000 Palestinians were unemployed in the end of 2011).11

Actually, 28% of the unemployed workers were young Palestinians between 20 and 24 years old. These workers were ready to accept any type of work in the Israeli settlements. They believed that their bodies can bear any kind of working conditions. Moreover, their need for establishing a new family by building a house and getting married required them to get any job at whatever cost. …

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