On October 9, 2018, Gisha filed a petition (Hebrew) on behalf of a couple from Gaza who were denied permits by Israel over the course of three years. The couple needed the permits in order to attend an immigration interview at the American Consulate in east Jerusalem, which provides consular services to Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The petitioners hoped to move to the United States to live near their son and his family. They have grandchildren in the US who they have never met.
To complete the process of obtaining immigration visas, the couple was required to attend a short interview at the consulate. Over the course of three years, the couple scheduled multiple appointments for interviews, filed multiple permit applications to exit Gaza and reach those appointments, and repeatedly waited for Israel to process their applications and grant them permits. On more than one occasion, the couple’s permit applications received no response at all before their appointments at the consulate had passed. Twice, their applications were approved, but upon their arrival at Erez Crossing, their permits were revoked without explanation. At one point, they were also told that they had been denied permits for security reasons.
In the petition, Gisha challenged the security allegations the state had made against the couple in the past, as well as the lack of response from Israeli authorities to the couple’s applications to exit Gaza to attend an interview scheduled for October 24, 2018. A motion for an urgent hearing was filed along with the petition.
Two days later, on October 11, 2018, the court ruled (Hebrew) that the petition was not urgent, partially on the grounds that other remedies had not yet been exhausted, as the couple’s permit applications had not yet received a response from Israel. The court’s decision disregarded the fact that a lack of response to the couple’s applications was precisely the reason that they were forced to file the petition in the first place.
After the petition was filed the state notified (Hebrew) one of the petitioners that she had been granted a permit. Her spouse was summoned for a security interview, after which his permit was also approved. He had, however, already missed his appointment for the interview at the consulate and was forced to reschedule it. Given past experience, Gisha asked that the petition remain pending until the petitioner had attended the rescheduled interview, in case he was suddenly prevented from attending it, but the court chose to delete the petition (Hebrew). In a later decision concerning costs, the court found (Hebrew) that the state had “acted properly” and did not agree to impose a costs order against the state.
On December 20, 2018, we were forced to file a second petition on behalf of the male spouse after, despite the assurances given to him and to the court, he was again denied exit from Gaza to attend the interview. This time, the reason given for the refusal was that the military was unable to receive confirmation from the American Consulate that the interview had in fact been rescheduled. Notice of the refusal was given less than a week before the date of the interview.
After the second petition was filed, the state said that the rejection had been an error, and claimed that the man’s permit application had been approved. The state argued that the error had been made by the consulate, though it provided no evidence to support this claim. The state also argued that Gisha’s second petition had been filed prematurely, before it had a chance to correct its error, despite the fact that the petition was filed three business days before the date of the rescheduled interview, when Gisha had been notified that the man’s permit had been rejected.
The court was satisfied with the state’s arguments and deleted the second petition as well, without issuing a costs order (Hebrew, p.3) against the state.
After finally attending their interviews at the consulate, the couple received visas and are preparing to immigrate to the US, as they had hoped to do three years ago.