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3.6.2018

Following HaMoked's petition: some 10,000 Palestinians living in Israel by virtue of family unification processes are no longer categorized as "foreign workers"

Approximately 10,000 Palestinians are currently living in Israel and East Jerusalem pursuant to renewable stay permits or B/1 visas, issued by virtue of family unification processes. They cannot become Israeli residents because they come under the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), which prohibits granting Israeli status to those defined as “residents of the Area” (i.e., residents of the OPT). People belonging to this category have, until recently, been classified by the authorities as "foreign workers" – a classification that severely harmed their ability to earn a living.

On May 27, 2018, the State announced, in response to a petition submitted by HaMoked, that employers of people in this group no longer have to pay a foreign worker levy (amounting to 20% of the employee's income) for employing them. The State also announced that members of this group will henceforth be entitled to tax credit points, similarly to Israeli residents, in accordance with the general regulations of the tax code.

In its petition, HaMoked described the difficult situation of members of this group due to their classification as foreign workers, and demanded that they be granted the same employment conditions as Israeli residents. HaMoked claimed that the high cost of employment and the lack of clear regulations on how to employ them legally, causes many to avoid employing Palestinians to whom the temporary order applies. Many people from this group therefore lack stable employment, and some are forced to work unofficially, and are at risk of becoming impoverished. This situation could potentially create a dependency for many families on the State’s social welfare benefits. HaMoked also claimed that Palestinians who come under the temporary order, who have been living in Israel with their families for years, leading full social and familial lives, do not meet the State's definition of a 'foreign worker', as someone who came to Israel for a limited period of time with the sole purpose of working in the country. People coming under the temporary order, HaMoked claimed, are in fact Israeli residents and constitute part of the local work force, even if they are not registered in the Israeli population registry.

The State's announcement, which revoked the classification of Palestinians living in Israel and East Jerusalem for years as "foreign workers", will lead to a substantial improvement in their employment conditions, and open the local job market to them. However, the announcement did not describe the manner in which the changes will be formalized, and did not address an additional problem presented by HaMoked, according to which there is no practical option to create pension funds for members of this group in Israel. As such, HaMoked demanded that the new policy be formalized through clear legislation or regulations which will enable employers to conduct themselves accordingly, and the State announced it would submit a supplementary notice regarding the other issues discussed in the petition by the end of August 2018.
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