After 16 years of containment and deterrence strategy toward Hamas, it seems that the barbaric massacre committed on October 7 brought the State of Israel to the conclusion that a terrorist organization that works to destroy the Jewish State cannot exist on its borders.
Thus, the IDF’s tactical and intelligence failure may lead to a strategic turning point in Israel’s perception of security, not only against Hamas in the Gaza Strip but also toward Hezbollah, the Iranian proxy in Lebanon, which possesses an arsenal of more than 150,000 missiles with greater precision and destruction capabilities than those of Hamas.
While October 7 will be remembered as the strategic turning point from a military aspect, Israel must also make an equally important strategic shift in the economic-social dimension in order to enhance its overall security. Hence, while the concept of “Hebrew labor” (avodah Ivrit) has almost disappeared, the decision-makers in Jerusalem need to disengage from their dependence on the Palestinian workforce, which often poses a security risk to the citizens of Israel.
Until the outbreak of the war in Gaza, around 150,000 Palestinian workers were employed in Israel (as of 2022, one out of every five Palestinians from the West Bank worked in Israel), with more than half of them in the construction industry. There is no reason why Israel should not train young military veterans to work in the construction sector as a national project, and guarantee them far-reaching benefits in order to end the dependence on those Palestinian workers. This is a gradual process.
Until then, Israel must import foreign workers, whose cost of employment is higher than that of the Palestinian workers (almost double). Furthermore, apart from the cost-benefit ratio, importing foreign workers and disengagement from the Palestinian workforce will significantly strengthen the personal security of Israeli citizens, a variable that cannot be measured in money.
It seems that the solution to the issue of foreign workers originates from one of Israel’s closest friends, a country that will undoubtedly be dominant in the foreseeable future: India. As the most populous country in the world, whose surplus of skilled labor has long since become a national advantage, Indian workers are preferred in Middle Eastern countries as they present minimal security risk.
The increase in oil prices in 1973 and the flow of capital to Arab countries increased the need to import skilled workers for huge infrastructure projects in the Gulf countries. Thus, Indian workers became an integral part of the urban landscapes of Dubai, Jeddah, and Doha.
At the beginning of 2023, talks began between Jerusalem and New Delhi to bring Indian workers to Israel to work in agriculture and construction. However, the signing of the agreement has been delayed due to ongoing power struggles between the Economy and Industry Ministry and other government ministries.
In the past, warnings were given that stopping the employment of Palestinian laborers may lead to the formation of a “pressure cooker” in the Palestinian Authority. Such warnings were based on the misconception that the better-off the Palestinians are economically, the less incentive they will have to carry out terrorist attacks, a notion which was disproved by the Second Intifada. This all points to the inexorable conclusion that Israel must not engage Palestinian workers for its own safety.
Indian workers can end Israel’s dependence on Palestinian workers
In order to fill the gap, Israel must first recognize that engaging Indian workers is one of the best ways to end its dependence on Palestinian workers.
The relationship between India and Israel has progressed significantly in the last decade and has proven its durability, even in times of a global pandemic and existential war. Along with sympathetic public opinion on both sides, there is no doubt that the conditions are ripe for Israel, like their neighboring Gulf countries, to become another destination on the map of Indian migrant workers. Unlike other Gulf countries, however, Israel will also take care of their human rights. Better sooner than later.
Source : The Jerusalem Post