The Israeli government yesterday ratified an agreement to employ thousands of Chinese workers in Israel, after Tel Aviv agreed to the Chinese government's demand that its citizens not work in illegal settlements, Haaretz reported.
The official ratification of the agreement came after years of negotiations between the two parties during which China insisted on its condition.
China said the condition aimed to ensure the workers' personal safety, but Israeli foreign ministry officials believe the real reason was political, relating to the fact that China and the rest of the international community view settlements as illegal as they are located on occupied territory.
Haaretz said that the negotiations between the two parties took years because the Israeli government did not want to sign an agreement that provides its explicit consent to a settlement boycott.
Following lengthy contacts, Israel agreed to the Chinese demand but found a convoluted formula that would enable it to avoid an explicit agreement to a boycott of the settlements, it added.
The current list that the two countries have consented to does not include any location beyond Israel's pre-1967 borders, the paper said.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said in January that the laborers would not be employed in the settlements because China "oppose building Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem and West Bank".