Ban on most Palestinian workers may cost Israeli economy over $800m, says Finance Ministry rep

Sam Sokol is the Times of Israel's political correspondent. He was previously a reporter for the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency and Haaretz. He is the author of "Putin’s Hybrid War and the Jews"

The government’s decision to ban the entry of most Palestinian workers from the West Bank following Hamas’s attack on October 7 could end up costing the economy up to NIS 3 billion ($830,307,300) a month, a representative of the finance ministry tells the Knesset Committee on Foreign Workers on Monday.

More than 10,000 workers, primarily those from Thailand who worked in agriculture, left the country following Hamas’s murderous onslaught almost three months ago, when 3,000 terrorists burst through the Gaza border, killed 1,200 people, and took approximately 240 hostages.

Reports have said that Israel may need more than 30,000 foreign workers to fill the gap left by these workers in the fields of construction and agriculture.

The shortage is exacerbated by the government’s decision to bar the entry of most workers from the West Bank and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Israeli reservists for the war against Hamas.

“We are in very dire straits,” bemoans Raul Sargo, president of the Bonei Haaretz Contractors Association. “The [construction] industry is at a complete standstill and is only 30 percent productive. 50% of the sites are closed and there is an impact on Israel’s economy and the housing market.”

Despite the general ban, a representative of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories tells lawmakers that the cabinet made an exception for Palestinian workers engaged in “critical” areas such as hospitality, industry and healthcare.

Last week, the Israel Defense Forces Central Command decided that between 8,000 and 10,000 Palestinian laborers from the West Bank will return to their jobs in Israeli West Bank settlements and businesses. The decision came after considerable pressure from factory and business owners who are suffering financially as a result of the loss of much of their workforce.

“The State of Israel must decide whether it is assisted by Palestinian hands or not,” says committee chairman MK Eliyahu Revivo at the meeting today. “As long as no solutions are provided, the state is still dependent on the Palestinian workers. The government is dragging its feet on this issue.”

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