Israeli official says will increase Palestinian permits 16Oct12 October 16, 2012

Ma’an News Agency   –   15 October 2012

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — An Israeli official said Sunday that the government plans to increase the number of permits for Palestinian workers in Israel.

Guy Inbar, spokesman of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said authorities will also issue a large number of permits on Eid al-Adha holiday on Oct. 26.

However, he noted that the number of permits will be dependent on the security situation.

During the last Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr and the holy month of Ramadan, Palestinians marked a significant increase in the number of permits issued to visit Jerusalem.

Some analysts saw the move as a political gesture, while others warned it would harm the already weak Palestinian economy during a period of high commercial activity.

Inbar said Sunday that Israel plans to increase the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel in an attempt to improve economic conditions and help the Palestinian Authority overcome its current financial crisis.

The ability of Palestinians to work in Israel provides access to higher wages than in the beleaguered Palestinian market, but some critics are concerned about the long term implications of the economic disparity between the pegged economies.

During mass demonstrations against economic hardship last month, some protesters called for the Paris Protocol agreement signed with Israel in 1994 be amended.

The Protocol gave Israel sole control over Palestine’s external trade, and collection of customs duties, allowing the state to serially hold back this revenue as punishment for Palestinian political measures, such as the bid for UN membership.

It also pegs VAT to Israeli tax rates, currently at 17 percent, despite the huge disparity in average Palestinian and Israeli incomes.

Unions point out that Palestine’s new minimum wage, 1,450 shekels ($375), is a third of that in Israel at 4,300 shekels ($1,115), despite the fact that the cost of living is quite similar.

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