Dignitaries including Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz gathered Tuesday in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba outside of Hebron to dedicate the first phase of new a road locals are calling the "freeway to the Tomb of the Patriarchs."
Haaretz has learned, however, that the Palestinians have refused to approve construction of the portion of the road that passes through their civilian jurisdiction. The project is therefore expected to be limited to widening of the portion of the road nearer Kiryat Arba itself.
The 1997 Hebron agreement providing for the redeployment of Israeli forces in Hebron requires the consent of the Palestinians for construction projects in the city. In contacts between the Israel Defense Forces and the Hebron Municipality regarding the construction of the road, the municipality has refused to approve the project.
During his visit to the area, an excited Katz visited the tomb and delivered an emotional speech in which he spoke of the "ancient and unbroken tie between the Jewish people and its land for more than 3,700 years." He recalled that on a prior visit a year ago, he had spoken about the need for the road into the city "based on the historic and Jewish criterion."
An IDF source said Katz's comments Tuesday would preclude any chance there was the Palestinians would give their consent for the new road, meaning the section within the Palestinians' jurisdiction will not be constructed.
The Transportation Ministry said in response that Katz had dedicated the first section of the road from Kiryat Arba to the Tomb of the Patriarchs. The access road, which includes three phases, will involve an investment of about NIS 25 million, NIS 15 million of which will be invested in the first two phases, the ministry said.
"The Transportation Ministry and its representatives have not contended that this was a highway to the Tomb of the Patriarchs," the statement added.
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