Following a hearing in a court petition filed by Gisha, the court instructs the state to hand over all procedures related to the granting of permits for Palestinian laborers in Israel
On May 20, 2012, the Tel Aviv District Court heard a petition filed by Gisha and Kav LaOved regarding information about the policy on issuing Palestinian laborers with permits to enter and work in Israel. The organizations, drawing on the Freedom of Information Act, seek to find out the following: What is the quota of Palestinian laborers who are permitted to work in Israel? What are the procedures that the laborers must follow in order to obtain an entry permit? What are the criteria for allowing laborers to enter, such as age restrictions or otherwise?
In the hearing, Gisha explained that it possesses documents which demonstrate that there is more information that the state has yet to provide. As a result, the court instructed the state to hand over all related procedures or to testify that all the information has already been provided.
In parallel, Gisha published a position paper entitled "Palestinian Labor in Israel: Missed Opportunities and Possible Ways Forward". The publication is the outcome of Gisha's legal activity in cooperation with Kav LaOved, and compiles the internal inconsistencies, imprecisions and lacking information in documents provided by state agencies. For instance, in response to the question regarding the quota of Palestinians permitted to work in Israel, various state agencies provided no less than five different answers. There was a discrepancy of 12,000 between the figures provided by the two main agencies currently monitoring the entry of Palestinian laborers from the West Bank: the Population and Immigration Authority and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
The data reveals the extent to which various governmental agencies lack coordination on issues relating to employing Palestinians in Israel. We also demonstrate how this state of affairs minimizes the potential benefits of Palestinian labor, opens the door to corruption and potential security breaches.
If there is any kind of rationale, security or otherwise, for determining criteria, it is not apparent in the documents provided. It is hard to understand why the same document lists the minimal age for picking strawberries and citrus fruit as 28 and for working in “groves, citrus orchards, pruning, seasonal maintenance and fruit” as 35.
These troubling findings must be considered in light of the Eckstein committee report which was submitted to the government about a year ago. The committee looked into the issue of Palestinian labor in Israel and its report determines that Palestinian labor in Israel benefits all parties in many ways and that broad reforms are required in order to improve inter-agency coordination on this issue. A year after its submission, the Eckstein committee report is still on the prime minister’s desk and has not yet been made public. It is unclear whether its conclusions have been reviewed and whether they led to any decisions.
Regulating Palestinian labor in Israel is in Israel's interest, as determined also by the Eckstein committee: It has been demonstrated that employing Palestinian workers would be greatly beneficial to both the Israeli and the Palestinian economies. Moreover, the report also noted that the Israeli security establishment supports the authorized entry of Palestinian laborers and does not see in this a risk to security.