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Possible shift in labor policy as Israel plans to hire Indian workers to replace West Bank Palestinians

Illustrative -Foreign workers seen working in the fields near the Israeli town of Bet Shemesh, Nov. 13, 2016. (Photo: Yaakov Lederman/Flash90)

Workers from the Republic of India will soon be welcomed into Israel to address the current labor shortage in the construction industry.

On Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened a meeting to discuss potential revisions to the nation's labor migration policies. The primary goal would be to boost the number of foreign workers in labor-intensive industries. The move is expected to lower the cost of living in Israel while streamlining bureaucratic processes for local businesses.

A central component of the policy change is the implementation of improved foreign worker employment regulations, thereby protecting workers’ rights while they live in Israel.

Israel announced in March that it was expected to welcome several thousands of workers from India in the near future, particularly to strengthen the construction industry.

The Israeli construction industry mostly relies on Palestinian Arab workers from Judea and Samaria, internationally known as the West Bank. However, following the Hamas Oct. 7 massacres and the widespread support for Hamas in areas under Palestinian Authority (PA) control, the Israeli government decided to bar West Bank labor due to security concerns.

Over the years, there have been numerous instances where West Bank workers, some with legal permits and others working illegally in Israel, committed terror attacks inside the Jewish state.

India and Israel have developed close diplomatic, commercial and military ties in recent years. Gaining its independence from Great Britain in 1947, India is home to one of the few societies in the world with almost no history of antisemitism.

India and Israel only forged diplomatic ties in 1992 due to the tensions of the Cold War. However, relations have developed since then, particularly under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Today, India is Israel’s second-largest Asian trading partner, following China. Additionally, the two countries have boosted cooperation in counter-terrorism efforts, as both face threats from Islamist extremism.

In May 2023, then-Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stressed the importance of Jerusalem’s ties with India, just before his trip to the Asian nation.

“This important political visit to India aims to deepen Israel’s strategic partnership with one of the world’s greatest powers,” Cohen said at the time, adding that Israel's goal was to tighten the "partnership on security issues and the possibilities of expanding the circle of normalization in the space between India and Israel”. 

Unlike China and Russia, India has emerged as a strong supporter of Israel at the United Nations since Oct. 7.

In 2022, top Israeli and Indian defense officials announced increased military cooperation between the two countries. Then-Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz highlighted the common ground when he spoke on a visit to India.

“India is an industrial superpower and Israel is a technological superpower – cooperation between our countries will expand the capabilities of both countries to contend with developing challenges,” he said at the time.

In recent years, Israel has become a major exporter of military equipment to India, as part of New Delhi’s effort to reduce its dependence on imports from Russia.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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