Tensions between Palestinians employed in Israel and the Hamas authorities of the Gaza Strip are rising due to widespread anger at changes to work permits.
The discord adds to the internal unease in the Palestinian community, dating back to 2007. New costs will also be levied on an already hard-pressed workforce trying to recover from years of suffering and complications.
This added financial and bureaucratic burden has provoked fury. It means staff must provide proof of their qualifications and pay around $160 monthly to agencies running the permit system under a licence from Gaza’s Ministry of Labour.
“Why must a worker visit professional centres in Gaza, make monetary contributions, and obtain membership documentation for submission to the Ministry?”, asked Ziyad, a 47-year-old jobseeker from the strip, who used to work in Israel.
“And after all this, are we still obliged to pay the company?” he said, adding:
“To our knowledge, there is no coordination with Gaza and no currency exchange or transfer. They demand professional certificates from us. Where are we supposed to procure them?”
Spike in permits
The overhaul comes after a dramatic rise in the number of permits. The ministry has issued 18,500, sharply higher than recent numbers. Between 2018 and 2019, the number of traders’ permits, which were more general, was 5,000.
But with officials expecting around 140,000 Gazans to look for work in Israel, it has appointed state-run agencies to issue them with a controversial monthly fee.
While that means workers will have been matched with jobs before permits are needed, there is resentment at the cost and many jobseekers resent the changes.
Many still have fundamental objections to the system and would rather see an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza that restricts entry.
Permits were first introduced for security reasons. Trader permits allowed Palestinians entry into Israel without being tied to a specific job. They became the tighter and more specific work permits now at the centre of the latest discord.
But the system is seen among Gazans as more of a means of control over them than a security matter. Discontent at how the territory’s Hamas leadership is running it shows the deepening divisions in the community since the blockade.
Regarding the economic impact, around 340,000 Gazans were thought to be looking for work, with an unemployment rate estimated at 47%, according to data from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics for the year 2022.
Sameer Abu Mdallaleh, an expert on Gaza’s economy, blames the blockade and the internal Palestinian divisions for these stark numbers. And he warns that people taking jobs in Israel will not help the Palestinian economy recover or develop.