Population Authority refuses to allow Gaza residents who worked in Israel to file applications to withdraw accrued benefit funds without original powers-of-attorney signed in the presence of Israeli lawyers
The legal department of the Population and Immigration Authority (PIA) responded (Hebrew) to a letter (Hebrew) Gisha sent to its payment division on December 20, 2015.According to the response, the payment division insists on its demand for original power-of-attorney documents from Israeli lawyers representing Gaza residents who worked in Israel in the past and now wish to access accrued benefit funds. As we noted, the demand is unrealistic as, in the current circumstances, Gaza residents and their Israeli lawyers have no way of meeting in person.
The payment division maintains that Gaza residents formerly employed in Israel who now wish to access funds kept by the state, can file an application with the Palestinian Authority Employment Ministry, for which legal counsel is not required. However, setting this route as the only option available to Gaza residents – if it is indeed possible and practicable – means a violation of their right to counsel, and a violation of Israeli lawyers’ freedom of occupation
Another route suggested by the payment division is asking the military to allow residents from Gaza who are trying to access their benefits to enter Israel in order to meet with their Israeli lawyer and sign a power-of-attorney in person, under the procedure for Entry into Israel for Legal Needs issued by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT). However, as we have previously reported, the procedure contains a very narrow list of criteria and receiving an entry permit pursuant to it is extremely difficult. In fact, laborers who seek to withdraw benefit funds are not actually involved in legal proceedings in Israel, but rather submit an application to an administrative authority, and as such, probably do not fall under the procedure.
The requirement for original powers-of-attorney is, therefore, unreasonable and severely violates the right of Gaza residents who worked in Israel in the past, some for decades, to receive money that is legally theirs, and their right to be represented by Israeli lawyers during this process. Gisha will continue its efforts to have this technical obstacle removed and its fight for the right of Gaza residents to their benefit funds