China has told Israel that its migrant builders are not to be placed on settlements in the occupied West Bank due to concern for the workers’ safety, and not because of politics.
West Bank is the territory east of Israel that is controlled by the Palestinian Authority but under Israeli occupation. The territory is home to a large population of Palestinians who live under Israeli restrictions.
An Israeli official told reporters that China’s reasoning “is more likely linked to Beijing’s diplomatic position that supports the creation of a Palestinian state and opposes Israel’s presence” on occupied Palestinian territory.
Hoping to decrease the price of homes by increasing the rate of housing construction, Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon authorized that the number of foreign construction workers be upped from 8,000 to 15,000. Without the Chinese workers, the 8,000 target will not be reached. The two countries have still not signed an agreement.
Other than its demands on West Bank, Beijing insisted that local governments continue collecting commissions worth one month’s salary for each year the builders work in Israel. This would end up being around US$6,000 per worker, assuming they work for five years and earn an average of 5,000 to 7,000 shekels (US$1,300 to $1,800) per month.
Although commissions are prohibited under Israeli law, Israel has agreed under the condition that commissions be paid by the Israel contractor and not the Chinese employee. The total sum is not promised.
Israel’s negotiations with China are part of an ongoing effort to end abuse of foreign workers. After receiving a low score from the US State Department on labor practices, officials were prompted to make new regulations seeing that foreign construction and farm workers must be employed through bilateral agreements.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it will continue negotiating an agreement with the Chinese government.
[Image via Times of Israel]
By Sharon Choi