The CEO of SodaStream is threatening to shut down its main plant in Lehavim at the end of the month if the government does not renew entry permits for 74 longtime Jerusalem- area Palestinian employees.
The 74 employees, ranging from assembly line workers to shift managers, received the permits to make the three-hour daily round trip to the new factory near Beersheba last fall when the company closed its main plant in the West Bank industrial zone of Mishor Adumim near Ma’aleh Adumim. Another 500 Palestinian employees of SodaStream lost their jobs due to the plant’s closing. The work permits were restricted to those Palestinian employees who are married with children. The current permits expire at the end of the month.
“Most of these employees have been with us for six years, and I’ve been begging the government to let me keep them,” said SodaStream’s CEO Daniel Birnbaum on Wednesday inside one of the company’s four factories on its expansive campus at the Idan Hanegev industrial area, a joint work zone for the Beduin town of Rahat, the Jewish community of Lehavim and the Bnei Shimon region. “These are ambassadors of peace, whom we bus in every day, and it’s been a long, terrible fight with the government to get them to keep their work permits, even though there are more than 100,000 Palestinians working inside Israel every day. But they won’t let my 74 continue to work. It’s just unbelievable.”