PA to Ban Palestinian Workers in 'Settlements'

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RAMALLAH - Palestinian Authority Economics Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh drafted a law that would ban Palestinians from working in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Palestinians work in these communities, many of them on construction sites and others in factories and manufacturing facilities.

"My population, my society is contributing to the lifeline of the settlements. My bill is meant to target this contribution," Libdeh said.

The proposed law also bans the sale of products manufactured in these communities to Palestinian shops and businesses, which represents somewhere from $200 to $500 million annually, according to Libdeh.

PA security forces have recently been intercepting and destroying shipments of Israeli products from Judea and Samaria.

Some Palestinians are not happy with the PA's proposals.

"The Arabs who work for me are angry at the PA, and they say they'll try to get to work anyway," Yehuda Cohen, manager of a plant near the Samarian town of Ariel, told Army Radio.

"They want to know how they're supposed to support their families if they lose their jobs," he said.

Cohen said the PA was destroying rather than building "bridges for peace" between Arabs and Jews. 

"Besides that, I'm angry at the idea because we work together and we're friends and the PA is now destroying these bridges for peace," he said.

Israel Building Contractors Association head Yossi Gordon said he doubts the plan will work because "for every worker who leaves, there are another two to three who want to take their place."

Meanwhile, an agreement between Israel and the PLO, signed in April 1994 and still in effect, renders the proposals illegal, IMRA (Independent Media Review and Analysis) reported. 

According to the ANNEX IV Protocol on Economic Relations between Israel and the PLO, a part of the Gaza Jericho Agreement, boycotting goods from Jewish "settlements" and banning Palestinians from working in them violates the "free and unrestricted access to each others' markets" and "free movement of industrial goods free of any restrictions."

The agreement states that "each side will do its best to avoid damage to the industry of the other side and will take into consideration the concerns of the other side in its industrial policy."

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IMRA and AP contributed to this report.

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