HCJ petition against Israel’s directive on processing times of permit applications by Gaza residents

April 17, 2018. Last Tuesday, Gisha petitioned the High Court together with Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and HaMoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual challenging a troubling directive from Israeli authorities that stipulates unreasonable processing times for permit applications submitted by Gaza residents.

The few Gaza residents eligible to submit permit applications under Israel’s narrow criteria for the purpose of traveling to Israel, the West Bank or abroad, do not receive responses to their applications within a reasonable amount of time, and sometimes receive no response at all. As a result, permit applicants miss important events such as relatives’ funerals or weddings; appointments for essential, even life-saving, medical treatments that are unavailable in the Strip, and; scholarships and placements at academic programs abroad.

Israel does not receive permit applications directly from Gaza residents, who must apply for travel permits through the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee (PCAC) in Gaza, operated by the Palestinian Authority. The PCAC is the official channel for all permit applications from Gaza residents; it submits the applications to the Gaza Civil Liaison Committee (CLA), the Israeli authority that approves or denies all applications submitted by residents of the Strip. The procedures for the coordination process between the PCAC and the Gaza CLA are unclear and unknown, adding to the great uncertainty experienced by residents in the process of applying for permits. The inflexible timetables are not adapted meet to applicants’ needs, which results in far-reaching ramifications for their ability to travel.

According to the directive, an application made by a medical patient must be processed by the Gaza CLA within 23 business days, regardless of the when the appointment is or how urgent the treatment. Every permit granted is for single use only, making matters extremely difficult for patients with chronic illnesses who require a series of treatments. An application to visit a relative who is severely ill, or to attend a first degree relative’s wedding in the West Bank or Israel, must be processed within 50 business days. In both cases, the timeframe is entirely unreasonable. Moreover, the Gaza CLA often fails to answer applications within the processing times stipulated in its own directive, and often doesn’t respond at all.

The petition argues that a governmental authority cannot extend its processing times purely as a way of managing backlog, but rather, must take measures to streamline its work, and assign additional members of staff to the task.

To view the petition (Hebrew), click here.

Update: A hearing on the petition has been scheduled for January 2019.