JERUSALEM (May. 11)
Two competing plans to limit the number of Arab day laborers from the administered territories working in Israel were presented Thursday as a means of curbing mounting violence against Israeli citizens.
The proposals were offered by Police Minister Haim Bar-Lev of Labor and Transport Minister Moshe Katsav of Likud.
They were prompted by consternation over recent attacks on Israelis by residents of the territories. Two people were knifed to death in downtown Jerusalem last week by an Arab from the West Bank town of Ramallah. Another person was killed several weeks ago in the heart of Tel Aviv by an Arab from Gaza.
Bar-Lev made a formal request to Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin to be more selective in allowing residents of the territories to enter Israel proper.
He suggested that the existing ban on Arabs with a record of security offenses be expanded to include those with a record of certain criminal offenses. According to Bar-Lev, Rabin promised to give the idea favorable consideration.
Katsav went further Thursday, proposing that Israel seal off the territories for a three-month period, during which no Arab workers would be allowed into Israel. He also would bar journalists covering the Palestinian uprising from entering the territories.
In addition to meeting security needs, the measures would ease the “growing dependence of the economy on Arab laborers,” he said.
Asked in an army radio interview if it was fair to punish all Palestinians by cutting off their source of income, Katsav replied: “I believe they deserve the punishment, because for more than a year they not only did nothing to quiet down the areas, but caused even more incitement.”
He added, “Their free movement in Israel has become dangerous, so much so that they have kidnapped soldiers and children.”
At least 100,000 Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza Strip commute daily to jobs in Israel. They do mostly menial work in the construction and service industries, jobs many Israelis refuse to take.
But Katsav thinks otherwise. He said some 300,000 unemployed Israelis, including students on summer vacation, could replace Arab workers during the three-month ban.