Gisha files administrative petitions on behalf of two merchants who did not receive a response to their applications for entry permits to Israel AP 43615-02-13, AP 43532-02-13
The two men are reputable businessmen who, over the years, built extensive and fruitful business ties with individual merchants and companies in Israel and the West Bank. For decades, each received permits to enter Israel for trade and maintaining business relationships. However, after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007, and as a result of Israel’s new policy of prohibiting the sale of Gaza-made goods in Israel and the West Bank, the petitioners, like many other merchants, were no longer permitted to enter Israel or the West Bank to conduct business meetings. As a result, many debts owed to them from deals made with West Bank merchants prior to 2007 remained outstanding and they have had difficulties collecting them.
Now that the mechanism for issuing merchant permits has been reinstated for some time, the petitioners once again attempted to contact the authorities with a request to enter Israel as each of them meets the criteria stipulated in a procedure Israel published for Gaza merchants. After their applications were denied, they contacted Gisha in order to get to the bottom of the refusal and try to reverse it. After long and exhausting correspondence between Gisha and officials at the DCO and COGAT, including countless reminders and a summons for a “security talk” for the two applicants, their requests remained unanswered. When Gisha asked the DCO legal advisor to make clear to the security authorities that they have a legal obligation to respond to requests and applications addressed to them, he replied that 'non-response' is not the type of legal argument that requires his intervention (Hebrew). In view of this response, there was no choice but to take legal action and file the petitions.
In the petitions, Gisha argued that in keeping with the administrative authority’s obligation to act with due dispatch, the petitioners, who have been waiting for a decision for almost a year, must be provided with a response. This obligation is enshrined in the Law Amending Administrative Procedure (Decisions and Reasoning) 5719-1958, which stipulates that public servants who receive requests to exercise their powers must make a decision and respond within no more than 45 days. The unreasonable delay in making a decision, which has left the petitioners to face their day in court without being able to challenge whatever allegations may or may not be made against them, is, in itself, contrary to the authority’s duty to act fairly.
Additionally, the respondents’ effective refusal to allow the petitioners to enter Israel and travel to the West Bank violates their right to freedom of occupation and right to engage in work – a fundamental constitutional right which must be upheld by the respondents when processing such requests. The petitions also stressed that the refusal to process the petitioners’ applications contradicts the resolution of the security cabinet of June 2010 to encourage trade between Israel and the Gaza Strip and therefore harms not only the petitioners themselves, but also Israel’s public interest.