One step at a time: Israel revises criteria for exiting Gaza

October 26, 2014. The most recent protocol (Hebrew) on Palestinian movement, which includes exceptions to the rule of closure in Gaza and the West Bank, was posted on the website of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) last week. The new protocol introduces some changes to exit criteria for Gaza residents, as follows.

Israel will allow 20 medical patients to exit Gaza daily, in cases that are not defined as “urgent”. We note that Israel has allowed medical patients with non-urgent conditions to exit Gaza in the past, but this is the first time it has placed a daily quota on such travel.

Israel will issue 250 biometric cards to business people and merchants. The cards allow expedited security screening at Israeli-controlled crossings.

Visits by Gaza residents to relatives imprisoned in Israel will be renewed. The visits will take place once a week to up to 50 prisoners at any given time. According to the new protocol, the prisoners’ parents, spouse and three of his children would be allowed to participate in the visits. Though the protocol would seem to suggest that each prisoner can receive up to six visitors (parents, spouse, three children) at a time, sources reported to Gisha that Israel would be allowing only three visitors per prisoner, compared to four in the past.

The quota of permits for Palestinian employees of international organizations will be increased by 600 to a total of 1,000 (300 additional permits for employees between the ages of 25 and 28 and 300 for employees older than 28).

Fifty medical professionals will be allowed to travel to the West Bank and Jerusalem for training per month.

In addition to members of the Palestinian national soccer team and Palestinian members of the Olympic Committee, travel abroad and to the West Bank will be permitted for members of the national basketball, table tennis and running teams.

The document also refers explicitly to members of the Palestinian national consensus government. Members of the government will be allowed to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Election committee employees will also be allowed to travel.

The changes made to access criteria are welcome, even if these are still only localized measures rather than the policy shift top security officials have been talking about. Gaza’s rehabilitation requires lifting travel restrictions, other than individual security screenings, in order to enable normal commerce, access to professional opportunities and family life throughout the Palestinian territory.