The population registry

Scale of Control

Israel continues to control the Palestinian population registry which is common to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Any change made in these records requires Israel’s approval, including the registration of births, marriages, divorces, deaths or address changes. The Palestinian Authority may amend or issue an ID card only after Israeli approval is granted. Israel updates all the changes in its copy of the population registry, which determines who is recognized as a Palestinian resident for the purpose of travel permits. Palestinian passports are issued by the Palestinian Authority only to residents who are listed in the Israeli-administered population registry. Physically, coordination on issues pertaining to the population registry for Gaza is done through meetings between representatives from Israel and the Palestinian Authority in Gaza which are held at Erez Crossing.

Through its control of the population registry, Israel continues to control Palestinian travel, since any Palestinian wishing to cross via Rafah or Erez is required to present an Israeli-approved ID card or passport. Israel also controls where Palestinian residents may live, as the address listed in the Israeli-approved ID card determines where its holder may reside: a Palestinian who resides in the West Bank or is temporarily present there may be forcibly removed to the Gaza Strip if the address listed in his or her ID card is in the Gaza Strip1.   It should be noted that since 2000, Israel has refused to allow residents of the Gaza Strip to change the address in their ID cards to an address in the West Bank, even if they have been living in the West Bank for many years2.

In 2005, Israel agreed to add some 50,000 adults living in the Palestinian territory without residency status to the Palestinian population registry. These were mostly spouses of residents who had entered the Palestinian territory on short-term visitor permits and remained there after their expiry date due to the moratorium Israel placed on family unification in 2000. About half of these permits were designated for status-less individuals in the Gaza Strip. By 2008, Israel had approved residency for 12,308 status-less persons in the Gaza Strip. The process has since been put on hold. The Palestinian Interior Ministry in Gaza estimates that there are currently at least 10,600 people living in the Gaza Strip without Palestinian ID cards, among them thousands whom Israel considers ineligible for such cards, even in the context of future gestures, since there is no record of them having received Israeli approval to enter Gaza. These individuals may not travel through Rafah or Erez crossings, as they are not registered in the Israeli-controlled Palestinian population registry. They are therefore “trapped” in the Gaza Strip with no way out, partly for fear of not being allowed back3.

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  1. Gisha, Restrictions and Removal: Israel’s Double-Bind Policy for Palestinian Holders of Gaza ID’s in the West Bank (2009)  (hereinafter: Restrictions and Removal); see also Gisha, FAQ: The Threat of Deportation from the West Bank and the New Order on the Prevention of Infiltration (Apr. 21, 2010) . []
  2. For further information see Restrictions and Removal, supra, note 17. In February 2011, Israel agreed to allow 5,000 Palestinians who live in the West Bank and whose registered address is in the Gaza Strip to change their address. At the time of publication, the change was approved for approximately 2,700. []
  3. For further details on Israel’s control of the population registry see: GISHA, RAFAH CROSSING: WHO HOLDS THE KEYS?, pp. 57-63 (Mar. 2009), pp. 57-63 (March 2009)’ (hereinafter: GISHA,  RAFAH – WHO HOLDS THE KEYS?), and GISHA, DISENGAGED OCCUPIERS, supra note 1, pp. 50-54. See also, Gisha, Who Controls the Palestinian Population Registry?, GAZA GATEWAY (Nov. 11, 2010), and Gisha, Camped Out in Erez Crossing, GAZA GATEWAY (May 2, 2010). []
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