Hundreds of Palestinians cross into Israel to work despite border closure
(Times of Israel 1 February 2021)
Yet again, we see reports of our “open” border with the Palestinian Territories. A pair of wire-cutters, and the hugely expensive security fence is open for all.
Currently, the border is officially closed to prevent the coronavirus from making its way into Israel, to say nothing of potential terrorist attacks.
These Palestinians do not come for coffee in Netanya. They do not come to enjoy the seafront in Herzliya. They come for one reason only, to find work.
We do not need a fence. We do not need to waste police resources. We do not need to catch these Palestinians. We have a simple and effective way to stop these incursions — catch their employers. It should not be difficult for the police to visit the construction sites, the restaurants, the luxury homes in Savyon, the hotels in Herzliya. Anyone found employing illegal, undocumented Palestinian workers, or any other illegal migrants for that matter should face heavy fines, even prison sentences for repeat offenders.
If nobody would employ them, they won’t come.
But it is not as simple as it seems. Someone is looking away. Neither the police nor the military authorities have made any attempt to stem the flow of Palestinians that is in plain sight.
There are a number of possible reasons for this disinclination to act. Some are “good” — the incomes the illegals take home represent almost a quarter of the Palestinian Authority economy. While there are undoubtedly some Palestinians who wish us harm, most just want to look after their families, to put food on their tables. There is no reason to stop them.
But some possible reasons are “bad”. We all enjoy a nice juicy orange, but these would be rotting on the trees if there were no Palestinians to harvest them. We want our cars to be clean and shiny, but who looks at the workers behind the scenes in the “automatic” cleaning stations. We are all happy to look the other way if our personal comforts are at risk. Until we have a workforce of robots to carry out these unpleasant tasks, we will need the Palestinian workers.
It would make more sense, in our First World, hi-tech country, to make sure that our impenetrable fence cannot be penetrated by a Palestinian with a pair of scissors. We should then turn our attention to the few, intentional, openings — the Border Crossing Points.
These openings in the border fence are often the scene of confusion and chaos. Long queues of Palestinians waiting to get to their jobs in Israel are a daily sight. Surely, Palestinians, with photographic identity cards, could be quickly passed though, with a computer record of their comings and goings, much the same as for an Israeli citizen passing through Ben-Gurion airport.
We would know who these authorized Palestinians were working for and could make sure that they were getting a fair wage. And while we were checking them through, we could measure temperatures — keep the coronavirus out.
At first, there would be some losers — easy, probably black, money lost to an unscrupulous few, but in the end we would all, Palestinians and Israelis, be winners.