JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israel signed a deal with China to bring in 6,000 construction workers after agreeing they would not work in West Bank settlements or eastern Jerusalem.
Israel’s housing minister, Yoav Galant, and the Chinese vice minister of commerce, Fu Ziying, signed the agreement on Sunday in Jerusalem. Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the decision to exclude work in the settlements “is based on the concern for the safety and security of the workers” and not politics.
The agreement comes after several years of negotiations over allowing Chinese labourers to work in Israel, with talks stalling over the Chinese demand that the workers not work in the settlements, according to Haaretz.
Israel reportedly needs the labourers in order to provide more housing, thus lowering housing prices by increasing supply.
The agreement allows Israel to save face by saying the workers would only be allowed to work in areas agreed to by Israel and China from time to time, according to Haaretz.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in a briefing to reporters in January, after a statement of principles on the pact was signed, that “China’s position on the Palestine-Israel issue is consistent, clear and unchanged. We oppose building Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem and West Bank.”