Barak: Up quota for Palestinian workers

Increased quota part of gestures package, would ease pressure in construction industry.

illegal pal workers (photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
illegal pal workers
(photo credit: Rafael D. Frankel)
A day after two Israelis were killed in a Palestinian cross-border raid at Nahal Oz, officials announced on Thursday that Defense Minister Ehud Barak will ask the government to increase the quota of Palestinian workers allowed into Israel from the West Bank. The move is part of the gesture package presented by Barak to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad during their meeting in Jerusalem two weeks ago. Barak planned to ask the cabinet on Sunday to increase the number of Palestinians allowed into Israel for construction work from 14,000 to close to 20,000. This would bring the total number of Palestinians allowed into Israel for work to nearly 25,000. Defense officials said that while the move closely followed Wednesday's deadly attack at the Nahal Oz fuel depot, it was important to make a distinction between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "The gestures are aimed at bolstering the government of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas," a defense official explained. "To do this, we need to make gestures and concessions to the Palestinian population in the West Bank." While the Nahal Oz fuel depot - the main conduit for fuel transfers from Israel to Gaza - remained closed on Thursday, defense officials stressed that it would reopen in the near future and that Israel would not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in Gaza. Officials said that there was enough fuel in the tankers to operate the Gaza power plant until the beginning of next week when fuel transfers would resume. The attack at the depot brought to light an argument between the IDF and the Dor Alon gas company - which operates the depot - regarding responsibility for personnel who work there. Defense officials said Thursday that while the IDF was responsible for securing the depot's perimeter, Dor Alon was responsible for stationing security guards inside the depot. In response, Dor Alon said that the company followed Defense Ministry regulations concerning the operation of the depot. IDF sources said that the military was studying the findings from the probe into the attack and as a result, might make changes to its operational deployment in the area near the Nahal Oz and Karni Crossings.