Apartheid roads on the rise in Jerusalem
By George Mandarin
June 18, 2013Israel’s Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee has approved the construction of the Hazeitim interchange, a road way that connects the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc directly to Jerusalem and allows for further settlement construction in the controversial E-1 area.
The newly planned interchange will facilitate unobstructed access to Jerusalem for Israeli settlers in the West Bank, allowing them to bypass prevalent morning traffic jams at Israel’s Hizme checkpoint.
Planners of the Hazeitim interchange avow that Palestinians will be allowed to use the same road, albeit in different lanes separated by a high wall.
The approval of the Hazeitim (Hebrew for olive) interchange will allow for the connection between the Eastern Ring Road—a north to south traffic artery connecting the settlements of Almon and Geva Binyamin—with Route 1, the main road connecting Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The Hazeitim interchange, in connection with the aforementioned Eastern Ring Road, will form a crucial section of Israel’s 'separation’ wall, asserts Nir Hasson, of the Israeli daily Haaretz, in an article on June 6th.
"This is the only highway in the West Bank that will have a separation wall running right down the middle," states Hasson. "For that reason, the plan’s opponents are already dubbing it [an] 'Apartheid Road.’"
The interchange’s planners emphasize that it offers Palestinian drivers a faster route between the northern West Bank to the south, and, cynically enough, will afford Palestinian travelers the opportunity to "bypass Jerusalem altogether."
Hasson argues that the Hazeitim interchange is just part of a larger system or roadways Israel is creating around Jerusalem that are intended to allow for traffic-free travel between Jerusalem the surrounding Israeli settlements. Others go further, arguing that such a step will inevitably lead towards annexation.
The roadway, if built, will be constructed in the contentious E-1 area of East Jerusalem. The area, which lies between Jerusalem and Israel’s third largest settlement bloc, Ma’ale Adumim, remains the last bit of land allowing Palestinians the north-south contiguity in the West Bank and a connection to the designated capital hailed essential to any acceptable and practical Palestinian state.
Israel has so far been prevented from building within the E-1 area due to international pressure, as doing so would most likely ruin any chance of a Two-State Solution.
Roadways as a means of annexation
Residents in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Safafa are already facing a similar situation. .
Construction on Israel’s Road 4, plans for which were originally drawn up some 23 years ago but delayed due to protests by local Palestinian residents, began in December 2012.
The 6-lane highway, which intends to pass directly through the center of the village, is designed to facilitate travel between Israel’s Gush Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem and the city of Jerusalem.
"They are trying to do an annexation of these settlements," Ziad Al-Hammouri, head of the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, said in aFebruary 2012 interview Al-Monitor’s Jillian Kestler-D’Amours.
"The target [is] to have minimum Palestinians in East Jerusalem, maximum settlers. [Israel is] talking about having in the near future more than 300,000 new settlers on east Jerusalem lands. They are trying [with Road 4] to connect all these settlements together to have a circle around Jerusalem," Al-Hammouri explained in the same interview.
Although, when it was originally planned back in the 1990s, the road was allegedly arranged along the outskirts of Beit Safafa, due to expansion over the past two decades, it now goes directly through the village’s center, effectively splitting the community in half.
"There’ll be a separation wall like in the West Bank, in the middle of Beit Safafa," resident Ala Salaman told Nir Hasson in an interview last December.
There are currently more than 520,000 Israeli settlers living in the 121 government-sanctioned outposts and over 100 settlement "outposts" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli information center for Human Rights in the occupied territories, B’Tselem.