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The ministerial committee on the economy, headed by Finance Minister Silvan Shalom, this week approved plans for several feeder roads to link the Trans-Israel Highway with the coast.

The committee committed the Public Works Department to complete the paving of the feeder roads by 2004, at the same time that the central section of the Trans-Israel Highway is scheduled to be completed. Part of the new road, between Kibbutz Eyal and Nahshonim (an 18-kilometer stretch) will be open to traffic within the next six months. That means that by the beginning of 2004, we will enjoy a completely new era in transport in Israel.

Residents of the south will no longer need to pass through the clogged-up center in order to get to the north. They will no longer feel cut off. They will be able to get to a play in Tel Aviv, or an exhibition in Jerusalem, quickly and comfortably. The roads will be free of jams, trucks from Eilat or Ashdod Port will no longer need to pass on the old coast road on their way north. And if a tanker overturns at the Glilot interchange, it won't mean that the entire road network comes to a halt.

Israel will no longer be a one-road country. And once the highway opens, no one will understand how we managed without it. It will improve quality of life in the periphery, particularly when it reaches Be'er Sheva in the south and Tiberias in the north.

But when the highway opens, we will remember those who will be forbidden to use the road. These are the sensitive souls, always preaching to the public. Their first concerns are the "periphery" and "unemployment," but actually they represent foreign interests.

They opposed the highway at every opportunity and with all their means, delaying the project substantially. They claim to combat unemployment, but when there are 215,000 unemployed amid a worsening slowdown, they want to forget that the Trans-Israel Highway will provide the only income for the infrastructure, paving and heavy machinery industries. Some call themselves "greens" but despite the attractive name, they oppose progress and development.

They will vote in favor of the right of the red dragonfly above those of the common man. If it was up to them, even the road to Jerusalem wouldn't be here, as it "damages the view." Next to them stand several ministers and MKs who call themselves "progressives." We mean Yossi Sarid, Dalia Itzik and Michael Melchior, who tried under the previous government to stop the project with every means.

Next to them stand MKs Ilan Gillon, Zahava Gal-On, Tawfiq Khatib and Anat Maor who proposed a private bill to freeze the construction of the highway for many long years. So when the greens and the progressives come to Ofakim, Netivot, Sderot, Kiryat Gat or Be'er Sheva to talk about unemployment, discrimination, alienation, distance from the center and lack of cultural performances, the public would do well to remind them of their unique contribution to the situation: their opposition to and procrastination on the Trans-Israel Highway which, by connecting the periphery to the center, should be known as the Pan-Israel Highway.