Residents of Gaza who want to marry overseas are supposed to receive a permit in advance of the wedding date from the Defense Ministry and the Israel Defense Forces. That seems to be the message of a letter from the legal advisor to the District Coordination and Liaison Office in Gaza.
The letter concerns a young woman who wants to leave Gaza and travel to Turkey via Israel and the West Bank in order to get married there. “There is something improper in that your clients have already made arrangements and set dates for the event, without receiving a permit from the proper authorities,” the legal advisor — an IDF captain whose name is being withheld by Haaretz — wrote to the lawyer of the bride-to-be.
The DCL is a hybrid institution, under the authority of both the IDF and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) in the Defense Ministry. The head of the DCL in Gaza is Col. Fares Attila. The COGAT is Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
The 23-year-old woman met her future husband — a businessman from Gaza who lives in Turkey — when she visited family in that country. She returned to Gaza alone. In November 2014 the couple signed a marriage contract, with her husband represented by a power of attorney, and set a wedding date for December last year.
Since the Gaza-Egypt border crossing is seldom open, the woman and her parents filed a request to leave for Turkey via the Erez checkpoint and the Allenby Bridge to Jordan. The request was filed with the DCL through the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, a body under the authority of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. In early February, after not receiving a response, she turned to Gisha: Legal Center for the Freedom of Movement. On February 5 the DCL’s rejection was received.
In his response, the legal advisor not only criticized the woman and her fiancé for setting a wedding date before they had received a permit. He also maintained that the request for an exit permit to travel to Turkey did not meet the exceptional humanitarian criteria set by COGAT for the movement of people between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
“The existing criteria on the matter deal with the participation in the wedding of a first degree relative only,” the DCL legal advisor wrote. In other words, the close relatives of the person getting married can leave, but not the person herself. As an example, he mentioned a petition to the High Court of Justice by a woman who requested to leave Gaza in order to be married in the West Bank. The court recommended that the petition be withdrawn.
That example is not relevant, Gisha says. While the criteria set by COGAT were intended to reduce to a minimum the number of Gaza residents leaving for the West Bank and to prevent them from staying there, the woman in question explicitly wants to move to Turkey and remain there. SHe simply needs to travel through Israel and the West Bank to get there.
In requiring that wedding arrangements be coordinated in advance, the respondants have “clearly exceeded their authority,” attorney Talia Ramati wrote in an appeal to the High Court of Justice.
“The respondents may be able to limit the movement of the petitioners, as they do numerous times, while using the laconic justification of ‘the petitioners have no inherent right to enter Israel,’ but they cannot invade their lives and decide who they will marry, when they can marry and where.”
The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories responded: “In accordance with the policy defined since 2007, when the Hamas terrorist organization came to power in Gaza, Israel allows the passage of people through the Erez crossing point only in humanitarian cases. A wedding does not meet these criteria, which has also received legal force from the High Court of Justice. In the cases at issue, the family’s request was received through the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee on January 1, 2015, and on January 8, 2015 they were provided with a written response.”
Amira Hass tweets at @hass_haaretz