TEL AVIV (Aug. 1)
Israel has decided to let villagers and farmers from southern Lebanon work in Israel. Labor Minister Moshe Baram announced yesterday. The first group of 17 came through the security fence today and the number is expected to grow to 170 in the next several days.
The 17 Lebanese workers, whose names were withheld and whose pictures were forbidden to be taken because of fear of terrorist reprisals, went to work in the Dubek Cigarette Co.’s tobacco sorting plant in Safad. They will be paid Israeli wages and will be insured against job accidents on the same basis as workers from the West Bank. The workers were met in Israel by the military commander of the northern region and by the Labor Exchange man for the area.
The rest of the Lebanese workers, who’re scheduled to arrive this week, will be employed by the Jewish National Fund in afforestation work in northern Israel. However, opposition to the employment of large numbers of Lebanese workers have come from such local labor leaders as Yaakov Pilar, secretary of the Building workers Union in the northern Galilee.
“We are having trouble enough finding work for our own members.” Pilar said declaring that his union would not allow the Lebanese to be employed in construction work. “We should provide them with food and medical services as humanitarian gesture but we cannot give them our livelihood,” he said.
FENCE ORIGINATED IN 1930S
The fence along the northern border, which is now being called “the good fence,” goes back to the 1930s when the British Mandate government put up a fence to prevent the entry into Palestine of armed Arab gangs. The British asked Solel Boneh to build the fence which entrusted the work to the Haganah. It was during the construction that the late Yitzhak Sadeh, the founder of the Palmach, began moulding the image of the Haganah since the work on the fence gave him the opportunity to legally train soldiers.
Although the fence was not needed during World War II Jewish settlers along the border maintained it and it became the Israeli-Lebanese border after the War of Independence in 1948. Over the years Israel has spent millions of Pounds strengthening and re-enforcing it.
LEBANESE SITUATION UNDER SCRUTINY
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Shimon Peres said that Israel has to closely watch the situation in southern Lebanon since the area now exists in a grown. “We must carefully, watch to see if and by what this vacuum is filled.” Peres said in a television interview. He said while the area poses no threat to Israel now the question is what will happen in the future.
Peres noted that Israel has not intervened in the Lebanese strife even though the Palestine Liberation Organization has caused a political and geographic rift in the area whose affects will be felt for a long time. He said it has been estimated that the number of persons killed in the Lebanese civil war has passed the 40,000 mark and that more than one million persons have left the country.