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Israel set to bring 10,000 Indian labourers for jobs traditionally held by Palestinians

Influx of Indian workers to Israel would be tangible sign of cooperation with New Delhi filtering down to daily Israeli life
Israeli Likud party election banner shows Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shaking hands with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 28 July 2019 in Tel Aviv (AFP)

Israel is set to bring 10,000 workers from India to staff jobs in construction and nursing industries, in a sign of deepening economic and political cooperation with New Delhi, according to multiple Hebrew language news sites.

Reports say workers will arrive in stages, with 2,500 filling jobs in both construction and nursing. The final agreement for labour is still being worked out between Israeli and Indian officials.

"We expect the agreements to be approved shortly, and we will soon be able to start setting up the necessary mechanisms to employ skilled labour in a proper and supervised manner,” a spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Population and Immigration said.

The talks come on the heels of Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s visit to India in early May where he signed an agreement with his Indian counterpart, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, to bring some 42,000 Indian foreign workers to Israel, with 34,000 earmarked for construction and 8,000 in elder care.

Israeli officials reportedly toured workplace training centres in India in March ahead of the talks. Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority described the Indian workers as diligent, experienced and fluent in English. 

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Israel and India have been forging closer ties for years. In January, India’s Adani Group acquired a 70 percent stake in the now privatised Haifa Port, for $1.2bn. The two are also part of US efforts to deepen security and economic cooperation with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Washington is promoting a plan for a vast infrastructure network that would connect Gulf and Arab countries to India via rail and shipping lanes. President Joe Biden’s top national security advisor met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and officials from India and the UAE to discuss the plan this month.

But the influx of Indian workers to Israel would be one of the most tangible signs of cooperation with New Delhi filtering down to daily life in Israel.

Roughly 100,000 Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza work legally in Israel, with the bulk of those jobs in the construction sector. They often face hazardous working conditions and exploitation. Almost half of the West Bank workers are forced to pay around 2,500 shekels ($746) a month to brokers to secure work permits.  

Meanwhile, Palestinian citizens of Israel have also faced discrimination for their political actions. In 2021, when Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories were swept by mass protests, hundreds of workers were fired by Israeli employers for participating in a general strike.

Israel also regularly uses the issuing of work permits to exert influence and control over the Palestinian economy, experts say.

Indian officials have pointed to Israel’s policies as a model for their control of Kashmir, where New Delhi has been accused of conducting a mass eviction drive against Muslims to alter the disputed valley’s demographics.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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