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Palestinian Authority to ban work in settlements
By Associated Press
The Palestinian government will move to prevent Palestinian workers from taking jobs in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian economics minister said Sunday.
Palestinians vehemently oppose the settlements Israel has built on land they want for a future state, but an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 Palestinians work in the settlements. Palestinian construction workers have been key to building homes for settlers, while others work in factories in settlements. Many say the West Bank`s poor economy leaves them no choice.
The law, set to be signed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by the end of the month, would constitute the most determined Palestinian campaign yet against the settlement economy.
Economics Minister Hassan Abu Libdeh, who drafted the law, said it is important for the Palestinians to be consistent with its opposition. `My population, my society, is contributing to the lifeline of settlements, so I am targeting this contribution,` he said.
Banning settlements` products
The Palestinian Authority will try to find alternatives for those currently working in settlements, but they will not be forced to leave, Abu Libdeh said. Palestinians working in settlements in the future would be breaking the law, he said, but he would not discuss penalties.
The legislation also bans the sale of West Bank settlement products in Palestinian shops, he said. He estimated the estimate of annual sales of settlement goods to Palestinian businesses at between $200 million (150 million euros) to $500 million (370 million euros).
In recent months, Palestinian security forces have begun intercepting shipments of settlement goods to West Bank markets, he said, but would not say how much merchandise has been confiscated.
Nearly 300,000 Israelis live in more than 120 West Bank settlements. The settlements have been a focus of peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians in the past, and will likely be one of the main topics at indirect talks between the sides set to begin in the near future.
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