When Binyamin Netanyahu declared the 10-month freeze on building settlements in the West Bank, he was following Barack Obama‘s direction aiming at benefiting the Palestinian cause. However, at the Jalazon Refugee Camp, no one is thanking the Israeli Prime Minister or the American President. They just want their work back.
Before the freeze, roughly half of Jalazon’s able-bodied men were employed in construction in nearby Jewish settlements. Along with the freeze, so went the work.
The long-term result wished for the freeze was the hurrying along of the peace process; but the short-term is costing thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank their livelihood. Their voice ironically is being drowned out by what they see as a pointless exercise.
Father of seven, lucky to find work one day a month, Walid Mustafa said:
“Work in the settlements has decreased dramatically in the last few months – it’s nothing like it was before. But our lives haven’t changed for the better and the leaders aren’t any closer to peace, so what’s the point?”
“The settlement freeze is temporary anyway. The Israeli government is made up of settlers, and they will build again soon enough.”
Mustafa estimated that about 80% of camp residents who work in construction are now unemployed, and those still working are taking jobs for NIS 50 a day ($13) rather than the NIS 150 ($40) they made before Israel put a freeze on construction.
Hardly anybody recognizes the fact that Palestinians who are skilled in masonry, construction, and other relevant trades have built the vast majority of homes in Israel’s controversial settlements.
Fawzi Aqrana, a Palestinian from Nablus said:
“While the politicians dawdle away the months, we have families to feed…Everyone at home in my village knows what I do, and I don’t think anyone judges it. We have to survive.”
Mahmoud Abbas originally rejected Netanyahu’s offer of a 10-month settlement freeze late last year, maintaining his position that the stop-work order should mean that ALL building comes to a halt, and that it must include east Jerusalem. Bibi exempted approximately 3,000 buildings – projects that had already begun.