Tuesday’s announcement by Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories – that Palestinian residency will be granted to 1,200 people who have been living in the West Bank or Gaza Strip with their families for many years – worried and confused the people most concerned with the issue.

Among them were activists in the Family Reunification – My Right movement, whose protests over the past year put the residency issue back on the agenda of coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The activists said there are many more people waiting for residency in the West Bank and Gaza than just 1,200. And Haaretz has discovered that these people and their families indeed have cause to be worried and disappointed.

In late August, Defense Minister Benny Gantz met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the PA’s civil affairs minister, Hussein al-Sheikh. Following this meeting, the Defense Ministry announced that as a gesture, it would approve Palestinian residency for some number of people.

The ministry never gave an official number, but from conversations with officials in the PA’s Civil Affairs Ministry, the activists understood that residency would be granted to around 5,000 people, in several stages. It now turns out that the number is much lower.

An Israeli defense official said he doesn’t know where the number 5,000 came from, but at the moment, the government has decided to approve changes in the Palestinian Population Registry for a total of only 4,000 people. This means that the Palestinian Interior Ministry will now be able to issue Palestinian identity cards to some, and update the place of residence on existing ID cards of others.

A statement issued by Al-Sheikh on Tuesday said this was just the first installment. But the defense official said he isn’t currently aware of any further installments.

Moreover, only 1,200 of these 4,000 people are actually being granted residency. For the other 2,800, Israel is merely letting the PA change their place of residence on their ID cards. These 2,800 are registered Palestinian residents who were born in Gaza and have been living in the West Bank for 15 years or more. Until now, Israel hasn’t approved their change of address, which greatly restricts their freedom of movement within the West Bank.

The defense official also said that the 442 Palestinian adults who received residency last week – all of them people whose parents are already residents – are included in the 4,000 as well. In other words, they have to be deducted from the 1,200 who are receiving residency for the first time.

And indeed, when the number of people eligible for identity cards was published Tuesday evening, it came to around 700. Activists in Family Reunification – My Right said none of them were on the list.

The defense official said he doesn’t know how many people submitted family reunification applications to the PA, which was a condition for receiving residency.

“It’s not the case that all the files come from the Palestinian Civil Affairs Ministry to the Civil Administration for prior examination,” he said. “At the coordination meetings that take place between the sides every day, the Palestinian side brings the files and applications that it proposes accepting, and together they consider who meets the criteria.”

So far, neither the activists nor Haaretz have been able to find out how many requests for family reunification the Civil Affairs Ministry received. The Palestinians say only Israel knows how many people – most of them Palestinians – are living in the West Bank without legal residency. Israel claims that only the PA knows, even though Israel is the one that controls the borders and registers everyone who enters or exits.

The Palestinians whom Israel is allowing to change their address fall into two main categories. The first consists of people born in Gaza who have spent their entire adult lives in the West Bank. They came there as children in the 1990s together with their parents and don’t know Gaza at all.

The second group consists of people who moved to the West Bank as adults for personal, economic or social reasons. For years, they lived in fear of being deported to the West Bank, as happened more than once.

What worries the community of Gazans living in the West Bank is that this approval to change their addresses excludes people who arrived after the civil war between Hamas and Fatah in 2007, because of Israel’s blockade of Gaza or because they didn’t want to live under a Hamas government. Their number has not been published.

Tuesday’s announcement once again shows how deeply Israel controls Palestinian civilian life. Twenty-eight years after Israel and the Palestinians signed the Declaration of Principles (the basis of the Oslo Accords) and 22 years after the “interim period” was supposed to end, Israel still controls the Palestinian population registry and determines when, to whom and to how many people the Palestinian Interior Ministry can issue identity cards (aside from people born in the territories, who are registered immediately after the birth).

Tuesday’s announcement also once again shows the extent to which Israel toys with the 26-year-old Interim Agreement (also known as Oslo 2). When it so chooses, it declares that the agreement is in force – for instance, with regard to security coordination or forbidding the PA to plan, develop and build in the part of the West Bank known as Area C.

And when it so chooses, it scoffs at the agreement’s provisions – like the one that requires it to coordinate with the PA on granting residency to around 4,000 people a year through the family reunification process, a provision that was frozen in 2000. Or the provision that gives the Palestinian Interior Ministry the authority to update the addresses on people’s identity cards in its database and merely inform Israel of the change.

In principle, according to both the Oslo Accords and the Palestinians’ understanding, moving from Gaza to Ramallah is no different than moving from Nablus or Jenin to Ramallah. Every Palestinian is free to decide for himself, just as Israelis can decide to move from Nahariya to Ramat Gan.

But in 1996, shortly after the PA was expanded from Gaza and Jericho to other West Bank cities – and long before the second intifada and the rise of Hamas – Israel made it clear that moving from Gaza to the West Bank and changing someone’s address accordingly on their Palestinian ID card would be possible only with Israeli approval.

Even back then, such approval was given only after repeated pleas and years of waiting, during which these Palestinians couldn’t move around freely and lived in constant fear of deportation. Today, Israel completely forbids Gazans to move to the West Bank.

There are Gazans who came to the West Bank after 2007 on a one-day permit and then stayed and looked for work. Many of them have been severed from their families who remained in Gaza. They are tied to the capital city of the district where they live and are constantly afraid that Israel will deport them back to Gaza.

Over the past few weeks, Israel’s District Coordination and Liaison Office has sent them messages saying it’s running a campaign to return people to Gaza in shuttles from Qalandiyah Checkpoint, and no criminal proceedings (for “residing illegally” in the West Bank) will be instituted against participants. Now that they’ve been left off the list of 2,800, they’re worried that Israel plans to crack down and forcibly deport them back to Gaza.