Gisha contacts Population Registry with request for removal of demand for original power-of-attorney as a condition for processing Palestinians’ applications to access accrued benefits
Palestinians who work in Israel or have worked in Israel in the past are entitled to contact the Population Authority Payment Division in order to withdraw benefit funds accrued to them during their employment, such as provident funds, pension plans and other social benefits. These funds, put aside by both employees and employers, remain in the hands of the state until the employees ask to withdraw them. This system was put into place in the Agreement on the Gaza Strip and the Jericho Area, signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in May 1994.
It has recently come to light that when Israeli lawyers contact the Population Authority on behalf of Gaza residents who worked in Israel for many years and now seek to withdraw their funds, the authority requires an original power-of-attorney signed by the Gaza resident as a condition for processing the request.
This demand is unreasonable, given that Gaza residents cannot enter Israel, even for the purpose of meeting their lawyers, and that Israeli lawyers are prohibited from entering Gaza, which leaves Israeli lawyers and their Gaza clients entirely unable to meet in person to sign powers-of-attorney. Due to this objective difficulty, other Israeli authorities, including courts, the military and other agencies within the Israeli Ministry of Interior, often accept signed powers-of-attorney sent to lawyers by fax or mail.
On November 29, 2015, Gisha contacted the Population Authority Payment Division (Hebrew) asking for the removal of the unreasonable requirement for an original power-of-attorney as a condition for withdrawing accrued benefits. Gisha noted that the requirement was a violation of Israeli lawyers’ freedom of occupation and Gaza clients’ right to legal counsel. The requirement effectively means that thousands of people formerly employed in Israel cannot access their own money due to a technical, procedural obstacle. We stress that Gaza residents have no way to access these monies without the help of an Israeli lawyer. Gisha asked the Population Authority to find a suitable solution for the problem, as other Israeli authorities have done in the past.