COGAT responds to Gisha’s request for information about quotas on approval of travel by Palestinians from Gaza into Israel through Erez Crossing
Israel’s policy on Gaza travel restrictions is detailed in a document entitled Policy on Movement of People between the State of Israel and the Gaza Strip dated May 5, 2011. The document outlines the general criteria for permitting travel from Gaza into Israel and vice versa. Specific, current details about these criteria are found in documents entitled “Detailed Breakdown of Permits on Entry of Palestinians into Israel, Exit Abroad and Transit between the Judea and Samaria Area and the Gaza Strip” (Hebrew), which are updated from time to time on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). These documents never mentioned a general quota for approval of Palestinians’ entry from Gaza to Israel.
However, media reports during the Cairo-led ceasefire negotiations mentioned that top officials in Jerusalem had spoken of an imminent agreement on increasing quotas for entry permits through Gaza-Israel crossings to 5,000. See reports in Haaretz (Hebrew) and Ynet (Hebrew). These news reports imply that Israel currently employs a policy of general quotas on permits to enter Israel. This information is incompatible with what is said in the detailed permit breakdown documents and with the experience Gisha has gained through the legal representation of clients seeking such permits.
Given this confusion, on August 14, 2014, Gisha wrote (Hebrew) to Major Guy Inbar, COGAT Spokesperson, asking for a clarification. The spokesperson’s office maintained that no information about the Cairo talks could be divulged and therefore refused to comment. Gisha then sent another letter to the spokesperson, stating that the response avoided the substantive question that was asked, which centered around whether or not quotas exist now and existed in the past (before the talks) and not around future policy and the outcome of the talks. This letter was also refused on the grounds that the response was somehow related to the Cairo talks.
In view of this deficient and evasive response, on August 28, 2014, Gisha filed an application under the Freedom of Information Act 5758-1998 in order to bring to the public’s attention information that should have been made public to begin with. And so, Major Guy Inbar (in his capacity as the official in charge of implementing the law) received an application for information regarding quotas on travel permits for the Gaza-Israel crossing from 2007 onwards.
On September 11, 2014, the COGAT public liaison officer provided the response (Hebrew), which indicated there were currently no general quotas on approval of Palestinians’ entry from Gaza to Israel. However, the letter did not refer to past quotas. This information may be provided in the response to the Freedom of Information application submitted on August 28, 2014.