After years of struggle – a Palestinian is allowed to enter Eilat
After years of fighting the ban on Palestinians’ entry into Eilat, a Palestinian from the West Bank is granted a permit which includes access to Eilat.
For years, the entry permits granted to Palestinians automatically included a complete ban (Hebrew) on entry into the southern city of Eilat.
In 2013, following multiple communications (Hebrew) from Gisha regarding this issue, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Public Liaison Officer admitted that the records of the deliberations that resulted in the blanket ban had not been located. It seemed that COGAT no longer knew why the policy was in place (Hebrew), and so it was decided to conduct an examination of the matter.
Whether or not the examination has been completed, and what the results were, is still unknown at this point. Even though COGAT does not know why the ban is in place, it has insisted on continuing to deny Palestinians access to Eilat over the past two years, other than in exceptional circumstances. The cases in which entry to Eilat was granted raise concern that permission is granted only when Israel stands to benefit economically, and that other humanitarian and exceptional grounds are not considered. We raised this concern in our letter (Hebrew) to COGAT (the response is available here (Hebrew)). In recent years, Gisha has fought to have the arbitrary ban on Palestinians’ entry into Eilat lifted, particularly in cases where the effect of the ban is especially serious. This is the case for students enrolled in programs offered by the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
The Arava Institute is located in Kibbutz Ketura, north of Eilat. It is a research and teaching center which offers courses in environmental studies geared towards Israelis, Palestinians and international students. Palestinians must obtain entry permits from Israel in order to take courses at the institution. Eilat is the closest urban center to the kibbutz, and the prohibition on entering it compromises students’ access to basic services, including medical care.
The entry ban also compromises the academic quality of the program: participants cannot go on local field trips, participate in cooperative projects with the Ben Gurion University branch or get exposure to the unique ecosystem near Eilat. As a result, the ban undermines the program’s prestige and uniqueness among potential participants in Israel and abroad.
For these reasons, Gisha has asked (Hebrew) COGAT several times to issue entry permits that include access to Eilat for Arava Institute students. Recently, one of the Palestinian participants received a permit (Hebrew) that includes entry to Eilat, marking the second incident known to Gisha in which a participant has received a permit (Hebrew) that includes access to Eilat. We hope that these permits signal the end of the arbitrary blanket ban on Palestinians’ entry to Eilat.