Do good fences make good neighbors?

Ten years after the construction of the security fence, the time has come to find an efficient system for managing the entry of Arabs from Judea and Samaria into the State of Israel. For better or worse, a scenario whereby no separation exists between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is unlikely in the foreseeable future.

Let’s first examine the numbers: On average, some 60,000 residents of PA-governed areas enter Israel legally on a daily basis, 45,000 of whom hold a valid work permit. Consequently, and in contrast to popular opinion, the issue is primarily an economic one: the search for a delicate balance between the financial livelihood of Arab workers and Israeli employers on the one hand and the security needs of Israel’s citizens on the other.

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The work permit system presently operates as a “gray market.” As in any other country, approval for a work permit in Israel is subject to submission of a request on the other side of the “border.” However, a lack of familiarity with Israeli bureaucracy and the temporary nature of most of the readily available jobs have led to the emergence of contractors or middle-men who supply manpower for Israeli employers and permits for the Arab laborers. Not only do these contractors earn immense profits at the laborers’ expense (each of whom pays thousands of shekels for their service) they also frequently transfer the permit from one worker to another without prior warning to the holder.