is taking unilateral steps in order to institutionalize a new reality of separation between the Palestinian population in the Gaza Strip and the one living in the West Bank, human rights group B'Tselem stated in a new report released Wednesday.
The report warns against harming Palestinians' human rights and their possibility to realize their right for self-definition.
According to B'Tselem, since the beginning of the current intifada Israel has been working in different ways to create a separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip and split the Palestinians into two different populations.
This policy reached its peak in the past year, the report said, with the new demand from residents of the territories whose home is registered in Gaza to obtain a stay permit for the West Bank, and with the refusal to let these residents enter the West Bank claiming they are "illegal residents" there.
"Through this new regime of permits, Israel is turning Palestinians from the territories into 'illegal residents' in their own home,' in an unprecedented move which has no legal basis," the group said.
B'Tselem notes that from November 2007, a Gaza residents staying in the West Bank is required to have a permit "to stay in Judea and Samaria." The permit must be obtained from the army, and it is only valid for three months.
In order to receive such a permit, the person must prove that he has been living in the West Bank continuously for the past eight years, that he is married and has children, and that there are no security-related or police limitations against him, and he must add a "humanitarian" argument to the request.
Even if this person meets all the detailed conditions and requirements, the report said, the army could turn down his request.
The report went on to claim that Israel's permit method denies Palestinians' right to choose where they want to live. According to B'Tselem, Israel has stopped updating the addresses of Palestinians who have moved from Gaza to the West Bank, making illegitimate use of the control in obtained over the Palestinian population registration.
This, the report said, is against the Oslo Accords, which state that the Palestinian Authority is the one authorized to update its residents' registered address.
Another claim raised in the report is that Israel does not consider the marriage between residents of the West Bank and Gaza as a criterion for living together.
"Palestinian women asking to move from the Strip to the West Bank for the goal of marriage, are required by Israel to deposit a high financial guarantee and to commit to returning to Gaza after their wedding ceremony.
"The Center for the Defense of the Individual has begun petitioning the High Court in regards to Palestinian women from Gaza seeking to move to the West Bank in order to take part in their own wedding ceremony and start their joint life with their partners living in the West Bank.
"In one of the petitions filed by the Center, the State declared, in an unprecedented manner, that the bride and her parents could travel from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank for the wedding ceremony, under the condition that they deposit a sum of NIS 20,000 (about $5,500) as a guarantee that they plan to return to the Gaza Strip, referring to the three of them, including the newlywed woman," the report said.
This policy has caused many Palestinian families to live separately – one part of the couple in the West Bank and the other in Gaza – and their meetings are subject to permits issued by Israel sparingly until recently, the group said.
According to B'Tselem, Israel has now cancelled the possibility to let Palestinians enter Gaza for a visit and return to the West Bank, leaving such family members with only one option: In order to live together, they must move to the Gaza Strip and will not be able to return to the West Bank, "as long as Israel continues implementing this faulty separation policy."
B'Tselem claimed that these demands "are like an attempt to transfer residents from the West Bank to the Strip by force. Due to Israel's policy, changing a person's registered address to Gaza means that person will not be able to return to their home in the West Bank. Israel is abusing the authorities of its military command and taking advantage of the families' distress in order to remove Palestinians from the West Bank for good."