Gisha and HaMoked demand that COGAT revoke a new provision conditioning the exit of Gaza residents abroad on agreeing not to return to Gaza for at least a year
The letter was sent on April 19, 2016.
In February 2016, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) added a new provision to its Status of Closure Authorizations document (sec. e.3), ostensibly allowing all Gaza residents to travel abroad via Israel and the Allenby Bridge border crossing into Jordan, for various personal reasons, without having to meet any prerequisites such as an age requirement or a lack of security preclusion (though individual security screening is still required). There’s a catch, however. The provision stipulates that this ‘exit pass’ will be given only to residents who sign an undertaking not to return to the Gaza Strip via Israel for at least one year (the actual undertaking form has not been released to date).
The provision also states that a Gaza resident who signs the undertaking and wishes to return before the year is up will be allowed to do so only in “exceptional humanitarian cases”, and subject to the discretion of the military commander. Once the one-year term is over, the resident may return to Gaza via Israel, but any additional exits abroad would be subject to signing another undertaking not to return for a year.
On April 19, 2016, Gisha and HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual wrote (Hebrew) to Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, demanding the provision be revoked as it was patently illegal. The organizations also demanded that Gaza residents be permitted to travel abroad without the condition of staying away for a year. The letter stated that the provision was a serious violation of the fundamental, universal rights of Gaza residents, chiefly the right to freedom of movement. It was further argued that the provision defies the principles of Israeli administrative law, to which COGAT is bound. . The provision, compared to other arrangements in place for travel abroad by Gaza residents, and the language used in it, indicate that it has no legitimate purpose and that it is not driven by legitimate considerations, but rather by the extraneous motivation of attempting to encourage Gaza residents to leave the area for good.