Some 10,000 Palestinians currently live in Israel pursuant to renewable stay-permits or B/1 visas given in the framework of the family unification procedure. They cannot become Israeli residents because they come under the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order), 5763-2003, which prohibits granting Israeli status to those defined as “residents of the Area” (i.e., residents of the OPT). However, these people are effectively residents of the state: some were born in Israel and have been living in the country their entire lives, while others have been living in Israel or East Jerusalem for many years with their spouses, children or parents who are Israeli residents or citizens. Moreover, these people constitute part of the national labor force, and their earnings are meant to provide for their Israeli families and therefore contribute to the economy of the country.
However, contrary to all logic, Israel applies to them a series of burdening and discriminatory regulations concerning their work conditions, which damage their earning capacity and employment stability. Some cannot find work, others are forced to work under exploitive conditions, unofficially, and so on. As a result, the economic situation of tens of thousands of their family members is harmed, making many of them dependent on the state’s social welfare benefits.
In a Ministry of Interior circular, titled “Employment of Palestinian workers who live in Israel in the family unification framework”, such persons are defined as “foreign workers”. Their employers are therefore required to pay a “foreign worker levy” amounting to 20% of the employee’s salary. This, despite the fact that the aim of this levy is to create a disincentive to the employment of foreign workers who come to the country solely for work purposes and for a limited period of time and whose salaries are transferred abroad. This means that the annual cost of employing workers who participate in the family unification procedure and whose center of life is wholly in Israel is thousands of Shekels higher than the cost of employing Israeli residents and even of employing Palestinians from the OPT – whose employers must pay only the much lower “equalization levy”.
HaMoked’s wrote on this matter to the various authorities, including the Israel Tax Authority, all to no avail. Therefore, on March 5, 2018, HaMoked petitioned the High Court of Justice (HCJ), to demand work conditions for this population that are equal to the work conditions of Israeli workers.
In the petition, HaMoked requested to cancel the classification of such workers as “foreign workers”, and to exempt their employers from payment of the “foreign worker levy”. Additionally, HaMoked requested that, like other residents of the state, they receive income tax credit points, according to their family and social status; and that a long-term pension plan is established for them, as persons likely to live on in Israel after the age of retirement, one that would also provide a social safety net to their Israeli relatives in case of the worker’s loss of earning capacity or death.
HaMoked also stressed that the regulations applied by Israel are contrary to the rationale underlying the state’s undertaking in HCJ 6615/11, following which Palestinians taking part in the family unification procedure are given a general work permit enabling their participation in the Israeli labor market. It should be noted in this context that Israel does not apply to them other restrictions applied to the employment of foreign workers – restrictions to certain work areas, specific employers and employment quotas.