Shlomi Eldar writes in Al-Monitor:
What happened between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) March 17 at Israel’s border crossings with the West Bank hasn’t been seen since the second intifada erupted in 2000 and dreams of peace between Israel and the Palestinians came crashing down. Some 30,000 Palestinians left the West Bank carrying suitcases, blankets and sleeping bags, ready for a long stay in Israel.
Permits to stay in Israel overnight were given to tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers as part of a deal reached between the Palestinian Finance Ministry, with the approval of the Israeli security services and the Office for the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). According to this agreement, reached in response to the novel coronavirus, Palestinian workers will be allowed to work in Israel on the condition that they stay for at least two months. In order to prevent the virus from crossing from one region to the other and to prevent the spread of the virus at border crossings, they would not be allowed to cross back into Palestinian territories during that time. The Union of Contractors in Israel and the Farmers’ Federation of Israel made a promise to Minister of Civil Affairs in the PA Hussein al-Sheikh via COGAT that Palestinian workers would be provided with appropriate housing and their employers would ensure proper sanitary conditions are maintained.
Will it actually happen? Most of the workers who took the leap this week and left for what they consider to be the “unknown” have serious doubts about it. It is, after all, the kind of relationship between an employer and his workers when the employer suddenly discovers that the situation has changed abruptly and he now has to accommodate workers who spent the night in their own homes until now. On the other side, the Palestinians realized that if they reject the living conditions provided by their Israeli employers, they would be out of work and unable to support their families.
The one person who understands better than anyone how pressing it is for Israel and the Palestinians to work together efficiently is Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. On March 18, Rivlin called Abbas and said, “Our ability to work together in times of crisis is also testament to our ability to work together in the future for the good of us all.”