December 13, 2012

Despite declarations (Hebrew) made by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) regarding the importance of advancing economic activity in the Gaza Strip, partly through providing trader permits to its residents, there has been a dramatic drop in the number of residents who actually hold valid trader permits in recent years. In December 2017, the number of trader permits reached a new low, with only 551 valid permits (of these, 431 were ordinary trader permits and 121 were senior trader permits); an 85 percent drop compared to late 2015, when Israel issued 3,600 trader permits (out of a quota of 5,000).

The denial of trader permits has a direct impact on the scope of economic activity in Gaza. At a time when Gaza’s economy is in a dire state, unemployment rates are higher than ever, and most local residents live well below the poverty line, COGAT might have been expected to take measures to increase access for people who engage in commerce. Instead, COGAT’s measures increasingly limit traders’ ability to make a living and contribute to strengthening the economy in the Strip.

COGAT rarely explains to residents why it will not renew or issue their permits. Many permit applications are left unanswered for months. One resident, M.S., has been trying unsuccessfully to renew his trader permit since April 2016. According to COGAT, his permit was denied for security reasons, “which, for obvious reasons, cannot be specified.”

COGAT’s response to M.S.’s application is particularly perplexing given that he is a longstanding businessman who held a trader permit, as well as a travel permit issued to leading businessmen, for many years. M.S. has never been arrested, interrogated or detained. He also routinely receives permits from COGAT to bring goods into Gaza, including equipment defined as “dual-use.” These types of permits are issued only after a thorough security screening of both the goods themselves, the person receiving them, and his or her connections inside the Strip. The decision to deny the renewal of M.S.’ trader permit was arbitrary, unreasonable and disproportionate.

On December 13, 2017, Gisha filed a petition (Hebrew) with the Beersheba District Court, sitting as the Court for Administrative Affairs on behalf of M.S., to have the decision reversed. Gisha requested that the court instruct COGAT to reinstate M.S.’ trader permit, or, at least, let him enter Israel to conduct business meetings for a restricted period of time or under certain conditions. Honorable Justice Raz-Levi ordered COGAT to respond by January 25, 2018, and a hearing was scheduled for February 1, 2018.