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On 8 December 2008, the High Court of Justice held a hearing on a petition filed by HaMoked, regarding Israel's policy of denying official changes of address from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank: HaMoked cautions that Israel's policy institutionalizes the separation between the two parts of the Occupied Territories, and perpetuates a reality whereby the Palestinian populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are separated and cut off from one other.

Since the beginning of the current intifada, Israel has taken various steps to separate the West Bank and Gaza Strip, split the Palestinian population into two separate entities and cut them off from one another. One of the tools Israel deploys for the purpose of separating the populations of the West Bank and Gaza Strip is the control it has seized over the Palestinian population registry. The interim agreement between Israel and the PLO (the Oslo Accords) stipulates a transfer of powers relating to the management of the population registry of the Occupied Territories to the Palestinian Authority (PA) – including the power to update addresses. In order to ensure that Israel has an accurate copy of the population registry, the Palestinian side was to retroactively notify Israel of every change it made. Hence, the PA run population registry would be the deciding one. It must be noted that the Oslo Accords make no special reference to changes of address between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a fact in keeping with the basic principle established in the accords, that the two parts form a single territorial unit.

In 2000, Israel decided to "freeze" the updating of changes of addresses between the West Bank and Gaza Strip in its copy of the population registry. The information included in the population registry at the time was not examined or reviewed, but frozen as it was, with no possibility of change, amendment or appeal. Following the freeze, Palestinians whose addresses had been changed only in the original Palestinian registry faced many difficulties, to such an extent that the Palestinian side had no choice but to cease updating the original population registry as well.

On 8 December 2008, The HCJ heard a number of petitions dealing with issues of principle relating to changes of address between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The first petition was filed on behalf of a Palestinian from Gaza who had been in the West Bank since her wedding, but Israel was refusing to change her address, making her an "illegal alien" in the West Bank. Another petition was filed on behalf of a Palestinian from Gaza who requested a travel permit to the West Bank in order to realize her marriage contract. Israel stipulated a 20,000 NIS guarantee for the passage, to ensure her immediate return to Gaza after the wedding.

The hearing conducted on this date was previously postponed, following the State's claim that it had instituted a new procedure for "change of residence," which the petitioners and others could utilize in order to resolve their difficulties. However, on 2 December 2008, the State submitted its response for the upcoming hearing, without attaching the said procedure. The response itself indicated that the petitioners would not be allowed to change their address to the West Bank, because it was Israel's policy not to allow passage of Palestinians from Gaza to the West Bank. In its response the State also noted that the petitioners retained the option to live with their husbands in Gaza.

The court accepted the petitioners' claim that the new procedure – under which Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip could unite with their spouses in the West Bank - was not supplied, postponed its final decision on the petitions yet again, and gave the State an additional three months to institute the procedure. HaMoked stresses that Israel's policy constitutes deportation: while Israel prevents Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip from settling in the West Bank, it encourages relocation from the West Bank to Gaza, which entails permanent expulsion from the West Bank. Israel is violating the petitioners' right to family life, and effectively denying their freedom to choose their spouse and where to live. (02) 627 1698   (02) 627 6317

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