As the Arab countries continue to impose strict employment restrictions on Palestinians, Israel is opening its doors to Palestinian workers from the West Bank. Palestinians say, in fact, that Israel is becoming one of the largest employers of Palestinians in the Middle East.
Figures released this week by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics in Ramallah showed that at least 80,000 Palestinians were now working in Israel and even in Jewish settlements.
In the first quarter of 2012, according to the bureau, there were only 77,000 Palestinians working in Israel and the settlements. In the second quarter of the ear, the number grew to 80,000; and earlier this week, the Israeli government issued work permits to another 10,000 Palestinians from the West Bank.
The move has been received with a sigh of relief among Palestinians, especially as it comes on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan.
The figures also showed that Palestinians employed by Israelis earn more than those who work for their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. A Palestinian construction laborer often earns more than a senior ministry official in the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank or the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip.
What is interesting about the bureau's report is that the number of Palestinians working in Jewish settlements has increased despite calls from the Palestinian Authority to boycott the settlements.
Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad's attempts to prevent the workers from going to the settlements has failed largely because they were not able to provide them with alternative employment. Despite the billions of dollars that were showered on the Palestinian Authority in recent years by the international community, Abbas and Fayyad still have not been able to solve the problem of unemployment in the Palestinian territories.
The Arab world, which once used to absorb hundreds of thousands of Palestinian employees, is beginning to close its doors in the face of Palestinians. Many of the Arab countries accuse the Palestinians of being ungrateful. Others do not want to see Palestinians at all: they consider Palestinians troublemakers and a source of instability.
Some Arab countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait and Jordan even impose apartheid-like regulations and laws that prevent Palestinians from earning a decent living.
The Palestinians could have built one of the best economies in the region after the beginning of the peace process in 1993. But instead of using the billions of dollars that were given to them by Americans and Europeans to create new jobs, the PLO leadership stole most of the funds and later blamed Israel for damaging the Palestinian economy.
Suicide bombings and financial and administrative corruption are the main reason why the Palestinian economy remains as weak as ever. The Palestinians are experts in shooting themselves in the foot and then blaming Israel.
Hisham Jarallah is a journalist based in the West Bank