Illustration West Bank road
Illustration Photo by Amos Biderman
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Travelers along the "original" West Bank roads, the ones enabling drivers to bypass Palestinian villages, can see signs declaring "USAID from the American People."

The roads are one of the initiatives of the United States Agency for International Development for building infrastructure in underdeveloped countries. Israel has already proudly left the club of developing countries and is not among the clients of USAID. Nevertheless, it appears the Smith family of Illinois is making the occupation a little less expensive for the Cohen family of Petah Tikva.

According to a June 2010 fact sheet on the USAID Internet site, last year American taxpayers funded the paving of 63 kilometers of asphalt roads in the West Bank. It also says completion of a road in the southern part of the West Bank dramatically increased the amount of trade between Dahriya and Beer Sheva.

What the site doesn't say is that a significant segment of the road goes through Area C - the 60 percent of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli civilian and military control and responsibility under the interim agreement of 1995 (the second Oslo agreement ). The agreement states: "Territorial jurisdiction includes land (and ) subsoil."

This is not the only occupation-perpetuating road funded by American money. Dror Etkes, an expert on the settlements, noticed a few days ago USAID workers energetically laying asphalt on two roads in the Samaria region (northern West Bank ) that crosses Area C. Israelis haven't been traveling these roads for years now because the taxpayer (in this case, the Israeli taxpayer ) has already paved separate, wide, modern roads for them.

Etkes wondered how it is possible that the Obama administration, which is vociferously opposed to the continuation of the status quo in the West Bank, continues to subsidize the road for Israel. "If the state of Israel is insisting on continuing to hold on and de facto annex the West Bank," he says, "it should also be allocating the money needed to take care of the infrastructure."

I asked an American official why the administration isn't demanding of Israel that it fulfill its obligations and pay the price of the occupation out of its own pocket.

"Who told you we aren't demanding that?" replied the official. "We are also demanding a construction freeze in the settlements and you know at least as well as anyone else what is happening on the ground."

It is worth mentioning that the when the Palestinians sought permission to pave a short road in Area C to enable access to the planned town of Rawabi, Israel pulled out the Oslo accord and kicked them down the stairs. The USAID tractors don't have access to the area either.

However, when it suits his interest, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a stickler for Oslo. A few days ago he announced that unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state would be considered a violation of the agreement. Tomorrow, incidentally, will mark the eighth anniversary of Foreign Minister Netanyahu's statement on Israel radio that "all the Oslo agreements are null and void."

A USAID spokeswoman responded that the program's infrastructure projects "respond to the needs of the Palestinian people and are implemented in response to requests from the Palestinian Authority. Many of the USAID funded projects cross from one area to another in accordance with the needs of the Palestinian communities and the specific project. There are roads and water pipelines that cross through Area C or are adjacent to Area C as designs require and agreements with Civil Authorities allow."

No way home

The Oslo agreement, which is so close to Netanyahu's heart, also states that both sides see "the West Bank and Gaza Strip territory as a single territorial unit."

Nevertheless, since the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel has cut off almost entirely the connection between these two areas.

Security authorities make a point of expelling Gazans from the West Bank and they do not allow residents of Gaza to reunite with their families in the West Bank.

A year ago, in response to a petition to the High Court of Justice by the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual, the State Prosecutor's Office said the policy does not apply to individuals who took up residence in the West Bank before the year 2000 and "about whom there exists no negative security material."

Be that as it may, during this past year a number of Palestinians have been expelled from the West Bank even though they arrived their prior to the cut-off date, and had no "negative security material" against them. Several have applied to Hamoked for help.

One of them, M.N., 29, went to Gaza in 2004 to participate in the mourning for his father. Since then he has been stuck and is in hiding from Hamas, which has issued an arrest warrant for him.

The coordinator of permits at the Coordination and Liaison Office in the Israel Defense Forces has recommended that M.N.'s request to return to the West Bank be granted. In the opinion appended to the recommendation, the aforementioned response by the prosecutor to the High Court of Justice is cited.

But the High Court of Justice is one thing and the reality is another. The Liaison Office's legal adviser rejected the recommendation and wrote that it is necessary "to be strict about consistency, paying attention to the fact that approving the request might be a precedent for approving similar requests." In another case handled by Hamoked, the adviser wrote that G.J. entered the West Bank in 2000 and should not be expelled under the guidelines. So why has  G.J. been sent to Gaza and not allowed back in the West Bank?

"The aforementioned is a bachelor and he has no family connection in Judea and Samaria," was the response. Truly an excellent reason. The time has come for him to find a bride in Ramallah and marry.