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Middle East Roundtable / Edition 21

An Israeli View:
Not a Security Risk

Interview with Dov Sedaka. Brigadier General (res.) Dov Sedaka was head of the Civil Administration first in Gaza, then in the West Bank. He retired from active duty in 2004.

bitterlemons: What do you think of the Sharon government's plan to phase out all Palestinian labor in Israel by 2008?

Sedaka: In my view this is basically not a promising plan. By 2008, and even beyond, Israeli-Palestinian relations will still not be stable. Therefore the Palestinian economy, which is now again taking its first steps for the nth time, will not be able to function alone. A portion of the Palestinian national product depends on employment in Israeli workplaces both within Israel and, until now, at the Erez joint industrial zone. Erez is going to lose 4,000 Palestinian workers.

bitterlemons: What is the multiplier effect for every Palestinian who loses a job?

Sedaka: For each family directly supported by a Palestinian worker, another three or four families are affected. At Erez the effect is already evident. The next major damage will be inflicted by disengagement: another 4,000 Palestinians work in the Qatif settlement bloc; if the hothouses are not transferred to Palestinian hands, these Palestinians will likewise lose their jobs.

bitterlemons: How long do you estimate that it will take the Palestinian Authority or a Palestinian state, with massive international assistance and under optimal conditions, to create enough work places to obviate the need to work in Israel?

Sedaka: A rough estimate goes well beyond 2008; in the best case, another ten years. I would like to see an independent Palestinian economy, but I don't think it will happen.

bitterlemons: From your experience do Palestinian workers constitute a security risk for Israel?

Sedaka: Absolutely not; they are nowhere near being a risk. Throughout all the years of Palestinian labor in Israel there was only one incident in which a licensed worker carried out an act of terrorism. The Palestinian side was very attentive to monitoring workers, and the magnetic card system worked for Gaza. Indeed, Gaza shows how a fence can enhance security monitoring of workers. Former senior security officials like Avi Dichter [former head of Shabak, the General Security Service] and Uzi Dayan [former IDF deputy chief of staff], who advocate a security fence, point to the improvement in security [regarding workers].

bitterlemons: What do you propose concerning Palestinians working in Israel?

Sedaka: At this stage I'm against any quotas. We should let them in to work while we see what happens at the political level after disengagement. It's a mistake to set a deadline.

bitterlemons: And at the broader level of principle? How do you see the overall idea of Palestinians working in Israel?

Sedaka: Israel needs labor. Palestinian labor is preferable to other foreign labor, because the latter becomes a demographic problem while the Palestinian worker goes home after a day's work. Palestinian laborers and Israeli employers have learned to work together, and speak a common language. Palestinian labor has been a success even in the settlements. In Qatif there are settler hothouses that lie beyond the security fence; Palestinians work there yet, due to shared interests, there are no terrorist incidents.

bitterlemons: And at the level of infrastructure, over the long term?

Sedaka: In the long term I'm in favor of joint industrial zones and Palestinian use of Israeli ports.

bitterlemons: The Erez joint industrial zone on the border with Gaza was closed by Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert due to security reasons.

Sedaka: I don't understand why Olmert did that. It was premature, and the reasons were neither economic nor security. We played into the hands of Hamas [who attacked the zone repeatedly]. It should be possible to build a "sterile" industrial zone. Just as we didn't close down Israeli public transportation because of attacks on it, we shouldn't close down a joint industrial zone. It works at Irbid [site of joint QIZs with Jordan] and it can work between the Palestinians and us.- Published 20/6/2005 (c) is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at and, respectively. 24-06-2005

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