The procedure has changed, but nothing has changed

August 27, 2013. The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) posted a new Procedure for Handling Applications by Gaza Strip Residents for Settlement in the Judea and Samaria Area (Hebrew). The  procedure determines the circumstances according to which Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip may move to and settle in the West Bank, as part of a policy that aims to reduce movement between Gaza and the West Bank to a minimum. The policy does not allow spouses to reunite, or parents to join their children in cases where the family's center of life is in the West Bank. The military did make amendments to the procedure, but it still sets very strict criteria for relocation from Gaza to the West Bank. In fact, Gisha is not aware of a single application that was filed and approved under the procedure since it was first formulated in 2009. The army has so far avoided responding to a Freedom of Information application filed by Gisha and HaMoked seeking information about the implementation of the procedure. A petition is currently pending before the Tel Aviv District Court to compel COGAT to supply information about the implementation of the procedure.

The procedure allows relocation to the West Bank in only three clear cases: orphans, chronic patients and elderly individuals in need of nursing care, who have no other family members in the Gaza Strip who can care for them. The Supreme Court has criticized the old procedure as it severely restricted Palestinians' ability to relocate from Gaza to the West Bank, and the state undertook to amend it. The state also undertook to expand the catch-all clause that stipulates the discretion COGAT has in approving unusual applications that do not fall within the three criteria listed above.

Despite the state's undertaking, most of the amendments made to the procedure do not increase the possibility of relocating to the West Bank. In some cases, the amendments make the procedure even more restrictive than it was. Like the old procedure, the new one also stipulates that family ties do not, in and of themselves, constitute "humanitarian circumstances" warranting the approval of a relocation application. For your convenience, we compared the old and new procedures.

On top of the strict criteria, section 6 of the procedure stipulates that applications made under it are to be submitted through a specific individual, Director General of the Ministry of Civilian Affairs in the Palestinian Authority, Mr. Hussein a-Sheikh. Mr. a-Sheikh lives in Ramallah. The procedure is meant to regulate relocation by individuals who are located in the Gaza Strip. The process of filing applications combined with the strict conditions listed in the procedure make relocating from Gaza to the West Bank almost impossible.

The changes made in the procedure can be found here.