Israel was hit with a fresh boycott blow from a major international trading partner this week, after China said it would ban thousands of its migrant builders from working on settlements in the West Bank.
A senior Israeli government official admitted the problem on Monday, saying: “We are negotiating with China for an agreement on the arrival of thousands of additional workers… For the moment, the talks are stumbling Beijing is demanding that we ensure there are no workers in this region.”
The news will be another headache for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has pledged to step up settlement construction on Palestinian territory captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War and occupied ever since.
Israel was hoping to bring in thousands of foreign workers to accelerate the pace of that construction. Currently there are 8,000 foreign workers in Israel, but officials want to boost this to 15,000, in an effort to reduce property prices, which have soared in the last few years.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied that China’s decision was linked to an economic and cultural boycott of the Jewish state, calls for which have been growing in recent months.
“It is more likely linked to Beijing’s diplomatic position that supports the creation of a Palestinian state and opposes Israel’s presence” on Palestinian territory, he said.