A year after the publication of the revised settlement procedure, COGAT confirms the procedure is not used
The settlement procedure (Procedure for Handling Applications by Gaza Strip Residents for Settlement in the Judea and Samaria Area), which was issued in 2009, determines under what circumstances Palestinians from the Gaza Strip may move to and settle in the West Bank. After the High Court of Justice criticized the procedure for its stringent conditions and ruled that they must be changed (a Freedom of Information application filed by Gisha revealed that the number of applications filed under the procedure was zero (Hebrew)), the procedure was amended in July, 2013.
A year after the new version of the procedure was issued, Gisha and HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual filed an application (Hebrew) under the Freedom of Information Act 5758-1998 to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). The organizations asked how many applications had been submitted, denied and approved under the new version of the settlement procedure, and how the applications are reviewed. Through this application, the organizations sought to understand whether the changes made to the procedure and the incorporation of the comments made by the High Court would change how the applications are processed and if it would increase the number of approvals.
COGAT’s response, received on September 16, 2014 (Hebrew) shows that the number of applications filed under the new procedure was zero, and therefore, not a single application for relocation to the West Bank has been approved under the settlement procedure. COGAT clarified in its response that two applications were processed under the procedure but that these had been filed before the new procedure was issued, and were processed under it “as a result of an error”. One of the applications was approved and the other denied.
COGAT’s response proves that the settlement procedure, in both the current and previous versions, is a dead letter, and is, in fact, not used at all. The response shows that the criteria laid out in the procedure are so narrow and so stringent that it is impossible to meet them. Furthermore, the application process the procedure stipulates blocks any real chance that applications would actually be received by the Israeli authorities and reviewed on their merits. The entirely negligible number of applications filed and approved pursuant to the procedure shows that the court’s comments have fallen on deaf ears. They had recommended “examining the possibility of broadening the criteria stipulated in the procedure which is the subject of the petition to a certain degree” in order to avoid serious harm to normal family ties and relationships between Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Israel, it is apparent, has no intention of allowing Gaza residents to move to live in the West Bank, not even in exceptional cases.