Israelis Take State to Court After Sinai Border Closure Ruins Travel Plans

The closure 'violates the Basic Law regarding freedom of movement and the peace treaty with Egypt,' petitioner says

Israelis on the beach in Sinai.
Elam Nussbaum

Israeli backpackers who planned to hike in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula during the Jewish holiday of Passover petitioned the High Court of Justice on Thursday to force Israel to reopen the border.

The travelers had planned to go through Eilat to reach Sinai, but Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz closed the Taba border crossing on Monday for fear of an imminent attack.

One of the petitioners told Haaretz that the closure runs into multiple legal issues. “It violates the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty regarding freedom of movement and it violates the peace treaty with Egypt, in which it is expressly written that the two sides will allow citizens on both sides to cross, and there are no reasons for this,” he said.

The petitioner also argued that the decision adversely affected people who made reservations and planned a vacation, some of whom had already made payments. “We figure that over 30,000 Israelis planned to be in Sinai during the holiday, based on the numbers from the High Holidays last year,” he said. “There are also Israeli business owners who were hurt because they have businesses in Sinai and sold services that cannot be used.”

The petitioners filed their suit against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister’s Office, Transportation Minister Katz, the Israel Airports Authority, Knesset Spokesman Yuli Edelstein and the Foreign Ministry.

Although the state requested the court to reject the petition out of hand, the judge decided to hear the petition on Sunday morning. The petitioners said that the delay in hearing the case undercuts the petition because, no matter what the outcome, the closure expires on Tuesday, meaning that thousands of Israelis who want to leave for Sinai this weekend will not be able to do so.

“Postponing until Sunday negates most of the petition,” said one of the petitioners, adding that they asked the judge to move the hearing up to Friday.

The state was first asked to respond by 11 A.M. on Friday. It later received two extensions, to 1 P.M. and then 1:30 P.M. However, according to the petitioners, the state only responded at 2 P.M.

Minister Katz wrote on his Facebook page on Friday: “What do the petitioners want, that an Israeli be kidnapped and that Israeli soldiers have to go out to rescue him? That is impertinent and irresponsible.”