Efforts against illegal Palestinian workers succeeding

Every day, hundreds of Palestinians take advantage of holes in the incomplete West Bank security fence and evade checkpoints to cross the Green Line to work illegally. In a Monday meeting, Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Moshe Karadi discussed the most recent police data, which suggest that recent efforts to combat the phenomenon are paying off. The parley was held in advance of a meeting called by Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, at which the topic was to be discussed. The phenomenon is considered particularly alarming as terrorists seeking to target major population centers often follow the routes of the illegal laborers. The two security chiefs discussed a strategy, enacted in 2003, in which security forces moved from combating the phenomenon on a large scale to one of pinpointing key elements of the support structure for the workers. Rather than setting the workers as the primary target, police have been pursuing the people who smuggle them into the country, employ them and provide them with housing. So far this year, four employers and 15 people involved in smuggling workers have been arrested. As compared to the same period in 2005, 2006 saw an increase in cases opened against Israelis assisting illegal workers. Karadi and Ezra also discussed new proposals, including new computer programs that would facilitate the effort, creating new identification devices for field units, changes in laws dealing with the illegal workers and the establishment of impoundment centers for vehicles seized after being used to smuggle illegal workers.