Israel is to raise the quota of work permits for Gazan Palestinians to 15,500 on Sunday, expanding a policy that defense officials view as a means of maintaining quiet on the country’s southern front.
An additional 1,500 permits are to be added to the quota, Israel’s military liaison to the Palestinians, widely known by its acronym COGAT, said Friday. The move came following an assessment held by Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
The Defense Ministry has signed off on a tentative plan to raise the number of Gaza permits to 20,000, an unprecedented increase. In mid-2021, just 7,000 Gaza Palestinians had permits to work or trade in Israel.
Defense officials say allowing more Gazans to work in Israel will pump much-needed income into the impoverished coastal enclave while encouraging stability.
“All the civilian steps toward Gaza are dependent on continued security stability,” COGAT said in a statement.
Israel first announced the additional 1,500 permits in July, as part of a series of gestures ahead of US President Joe Biden’s visit to the region. But the move was frozen after terrorists in Gaza launched rockets at southern Israel.
The move was not renewed sooner due to the recent three-day round of fighting in the Gaza Strip. Between August 5 and 8, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group launched some 1,175 rockets at Israel.
On Sunday, Maj. Gen. Ghassan Alian, the head of COGAT, touted steps Israel has taken to strengthen the economy in the Gaza Strip while also foiling military buildup by terror groups there.
“The policy consists of a military effort to thwart military buildup, and critically striking at any attempt to harm the security of Israel, alongside a proactive civilian policy aimed at the general public,” Alian said.
According to COGAT, crossings between Gaza and Israel increased by 311% percent this year. In 2020, some 122,400 crossings were recorded; in 2021 the number rose to 163,500; and this year the number shot up to 672,000, according to the data.
The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by both Israel and Egypt for over 15 years in an attempt to contain the enclave’s Hamas rulers. Israel says the tight restrictions on goods and people are necessary due to the terror group’s efforts to massively arm itself for attacks against the Jewish state.
Critics lament the blockade’s impact on ordinary Gazans, around 50 percent of whom are unemployed, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics. The sky-high poverty rates make employment in Israel a highly attractive option for those lucky enough to receive permits.
In Gaza, Palestinian workers can expect an average daily wage of about NIS 60 ($17.35). The few allowed to cross into Israel to work might get as much as NIS 400 ($115.66) per day, according to a report in the Times of Israel sister site Zman Yisrael.