The government’s decision to dramatically change the permit giving model for Palestinians from the West Bank was supposed to be applied starting this month, but the authorities have apparently not finished their preparations. Meanwhile, the reality of permit profiteering and high brokerage fees taken out of the workers’ fees goes on – those two harsh phenomenons being the ones that the new model aims to bring to an end.
Now, it appears that during the slow preparations for the model change, another just-as-revolutionary move is being promoted, now by the Ministry of Finance: a change in the purpose of the payments bureau – the body that was reponsible for protecting the rights of Palestinian workers, and completely and utterly failed at doing its job over the years. The bureau – which was responsible for recieving employer reports, collecting deductions from wages, issuing pay slips, taking care of requests for sick pay and allowances, withdrawing aggregate funds, etc – is bound to, according to the reccomendations of the Ministry of Finance, be cancelled and turned into a regulation and enforcement department only.
How will the bureau change, and what does this mean for the tens of thousands of Palestinian workers whose access to Israeli enforcement authorities is full of obstacles? What will the ministry do with the hundreds of millions of shekels taken from the workers’ wages, and accumulated in designated funds managed by the Bank of Israel? These questions have not been answered just yet, and it seems that the ministry’s talk about “liberating the workers” from shackling and exploitation is premature, to say the least.