As a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the Defense Ministry wants to grant Palestinians an additional 6,000 permits for construction work in Israel, including in West Bank settlements.

The measure would help the Palestinian and Israeli economy, said the spokesman for the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

It will also improve the quality of life for Palestinian laborers, he said.

Just last month, Israel granted the Palestinians an additional 5,000 permits for construction work, for a total of 24,500 Palestinian laborers.

The newest gesture, if approved by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the political echelon, would bring the total number of permits to 30,500 for construction work in Israel, including the West Bank settlements, the spokesman said.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether Netanyahu would approve the move. Just two weeks ago an internal government memo articulated anger and frustration at the Palestinian Authority’s failure to respond positively to a series of recent goodwill steps.

These steps included: the signing of an economic accord with the PA aimed at enhancing trade and clamping town on tax evasion; the decision on the eve of Ramadan last month to advance the PA some NIS 180 million of tax money it transfers on a monthly basis so salaries could be paid; the transfer in May to the PA of the bodies of some 90 terrorists; and the decision in July to already increase by 5,000 the number of Palestinian construction workers allowed to work in the country.

Instead of responding positively, the memo said the Palestinians announced they would go back to the UN General Assembly in September and ask for observer status as a nonmember state, and sent what Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman characterized as a slanderous letter against Israel to the EU in late July.

Nevertheless, the idea of an additional 6,000 work permits came from COGAT head Maj.- Gen. Eitan Dangot, in collaboration with the Israeli immigration authorities, the union of construction workers and the Defense Ministry, the COGAT spokesman said.

“We do not want to the PA to crash,” he said. Israel needs to do what it can to help the Palestinian economy, as long as those gestures do not harm Israel’s interests, the spokesman added.

Palestinians who work in Israel earn a salary that is 2.5 times higher than what they would earn in a comparable job in the Palestinian territories, he said.

A strong Palestinian economy and the Palestinian ability to earn a liveable wage is key to improving stability and security in the West Bank, the spokesman said.

Palestinians who are unemployed and impoverished are more likely to engage in acts of violence and terror. The immigration authorities also prefer Palestinian workers to migrants, because they enter during the day but leave at night, he said.

The move also helps the construction industry, which is in need of more laborers, he added.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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