Israel approves 500 work permits for Palestinian tech workers; Palestinians skeptical

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OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — The Israeli government plans to allow Israeli tech companies to hire Palestinian workers as its technology sector is facing a serious labor shortage and to help the struggling Palestinian economy.اضافة اعلان
The announcement from earlier this month stated that Israel would issue 500 work permits to West Bank Palestinian tech employees over a period of three years.

More than 130,000 Palestinians work in Israel and in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, mainly in construction and agriculture, according to Israeli statistics.

Israel claimed that the decision would help an ailing Palestinian economy, but not all Palestinians are convinced; some argued that this decision will hurt their economy and the high-tech sector in the long run.

A professor of finance and economics at the Arab American University, Nasr Abdel Karim, said the arrangement will have greater impact on the Israeli technology industry than on the Palestinian economy, because it would help bolster a huge shortage of skilled workers.

“Its primary motives are economic, because they (Israel) are in dire need of this labor and their economy is growing,” he told Jordan News, adding that this step, “could lead to a brain drain of much needed expertise.”

Hundreds of Palestinian tech workers may soon get an opportunity to earn higher wages in Israel's tech sector. But still, Israel's plan is receiving mixed reviews from Palestinians.

Hamza Ghosheh, the cofounder and CEO of Naviatx, is developing a software that tracks a motorist's driving habits and sends the data to insurance companies.

He admits that Israel is a leader when it comes to software development and says Palestinian IT workers can benefit from the arrangement.
“Having more young Palestinians getting more access to this kind of expertise can help Palestinian entrepreneurs, (who) will also benefit from exposure to highly qualified personnel,” he said.

Ramallah has become a vibrant innovation hub for Palestinian start-ups and a key player in the region's IT sector. But all that could change following Israel's decision to grant work permits to Palestinians with experience in the technology industry.

Some Palestinians are worried it will lead to a brain drain of highly skilled workers, by luring them with promises of high salaries and lucrative benefits packages, something Palestinian business can’t compete with.

Palestinian universities graduate between 200 and 4000 tech students each year, and the Palestinian IT sector is unable to accommodate all of them.
"There's no doubt that salaries are higher in Israel, but that is going to hurt our own market," said Omar Shamali, the owner of ProVision, a Ramallah-based IT company that specializes in building websites, mobile apps, and web systems.

The average salary of a senior developer hovers around $3,500, while the same position in Tel Aviv pays anywhere from $9,000 to $14,000.
Abdel Karim said that, despite the positive economic impact it will have on the Palestinian economy, the negative will outweigh the positives.

“You are essentially denying the Palestinian market any opportunity to develop this sector on its own. When Palestinians are offered opportunities that come with attractive salaries, it becomes difficult to find professionals wanting to work in Palestine.”

Shamali said business is brisk, but his company is struggling to get people to come and work for his company.

Furthermore, he added, his business has been steadily growing since it was established more than a decade ago, but finding help has been a laborious task that will be exasperated by this announcement.

“We have this problem; we have been running advertisements to find new developers with experience — even if they are freshly graduated from the university. We didn’t succeed in hiring anyone. We even raised the salaries 30–40 percent and they still refused.”

Shamali said that the problem with the Israeli offer lies in its political motives.
“Working with Israelis this closely and publicly it will, with time, allow the normalization era to be more shining and will lead at the end of the day to greater acceptance of the occupation of Palestine.”

The Israeli offer isn't new. Some Palestinians are already working in Israel at technology firms, but largely on a project-only basis. What is new about this latest scheme is the number of people it allows to cross the border for work. Officially, the Palestinian Authority has yet to make its position public, likely for fear it would be seen as pushing more people to work in Israel.

The permits will be divided over three years, with an initial 200 to be issued in 2022. The allocated number will increase by another 200 in 2023 before capping out at 500 total permits in 2024.

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