Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly requested that the Jewish state’s socioeconomic cabinet convene on Sunday to discuss the potential reentry of Palestinian workers back into Israel.
Israel has not allowed any Palestinian workers from the West Bank or the Gaza Strip into Israel since Hamas terrorists and their accomplices invaded and brutally murdered some 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7.
Netanyahu, who leads the War Cabinet, is hoping to get a consensus on the guidelines for allowing Palestinian workers to enter Israel without undermining Israel's security.
While the Biden administration has supported Israel’s right to self-defense against the unprecedented Hamas aggression, Washington has also pressured Israel to increase humanitarian aid and improve the daily lives of the Palestinian population in the disputed territories.
While not official, it is, therefore, likely that Netanyahu’s plan to potentially greenlight the reentry of West Bank Palestinians is designed to reduce political pressure from the U.S. Biden administration and keep Washington’s crucial support for Israel’s ongoing goal to dismantle the terror organization Hamas.
However, not all the members of the cabinet are in favor of allowing West Bank Palestinian workers back into Israel. Former Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar opposes such a policy, in favor of Israel's security.
"These are people who are drowning in incitement and hatred for Israel and the Jews. Israel must release Palestinian workers today and increase the number of foreign workers from friendly nations. No consideration is more important than the safety of Israel's citizens," Sa’ar stated.
He emphasized that "allowing Palestinian workers from the West Bank to return to work in Israel is wrong and dangerous.”
Echoing Sa’ar’s security warnings, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich expressed his opposition, stressing that "the vast majority of Israeli citizens understand the dangers and that we cannot turn a blind eye to them."
Meanwhile, Israeli leaders in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, called on Netanyahu to involve them in the decision process concerning the local Palestinian workforce.
An unnamed security official told the Israeli news outlet Walla on Sunday that permitting workers back to Israel could “escalate terror in the West Bank,” and that it would affect approximately half a million Israelis living in the Jewish communities beyond the green line.
"As per military estimates, it will increase hostility and certainly escalate terror," the security source warned.
On the other hand, some security officials argue that increased financial stability would reduce the risk of terrorism in the West Bank.
While Israeli security concerns are genuine, so is Israel’s manpower deficit, which is a crisis in several labor-intensive sectors, such as agriculture. Much of Israel’s agriculture is concentrated in the border communities in southern Israel in areas that were devastated by the Hamas invasion on Oct. 7.
An Israeli farmer, Eli Pereg, whose farm is located close to the Gaza border, lamented that he had lost the majority of his crops because of the war that Hamas launched against Israel.
“I’ve lost 80% of my crops in this mess,” Pereg said. “And I don’t know how I will continue from here,” he added.
Pereg, whose agricultural business relies on foreign workers, said many of them are afraid to return after seeing horrific images.
“Pictures circulating on social media of Gazans beheading a Thai man with garden hoes scared most of my workers,” he said. “The two who stayed have been with me the longest and are used to wars."
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.