A new bypass road, Route 4370, has just opened to traffic, linking settlements north of Jerusalem to the capital. Even before the ribbon-cutting it became a visual symbol because of the wall that bisects it — one side for Israelis, most of them settlers who commute to the city daily, the other for Palestinians. The road lets them detour around Jerusalem, which they are barred from entering, on their way to Ramallah or Bethlehem.
It would appear to be good news: Both Israelis and Palestinians will benefit from the new road, which stands to shorten their commutes and ease congestion. But the 8-meter-high divider makes it a grotesque symbol of Israel’s policy of segregation in the West Bank.
Under this policy, the rights to much of the land and infrastructure in the West Bank are divided between Israelis, who may move freely in nearly the entire area; and Palestinians, who move between isolated islands on separate roads. Israel spends hundreds of millions of shekels to build roads, junctions, tunnels and bridges to support this policy, as well as checkpoints staffed by more and more soldiers and police officers in order to separate those who nonetheless fall through the cracks in this system of separation.
The segregation policy began with bypass roads, out of the security needs of the two intifadas, but for years now it has been portrayed as a temporary solution to ad-hoc problems, until such time as a permanent diplomatic solution is found.
That may be the reason why it took over a decade to open the new road to traffic after its completion; it seems there were those who held out hopes there would be no need for such a ridiculous thing.
But under the latest government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the temporary became permanent, the adhesive bandage became a permanent form of treatment. In the absence of any diplomatic vision for resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, all that was left was to build a wall and plan another checkpoint, in a desperate attempt to hide the 2.8 million Palestinians living in the West Bank alongside half a million Israelis.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Yisrael Gantz, the chairman of the Binyamin Regional Council, called the new road “an lifeline for the residents of Binyamin,” thus disclosing a bitter truth about the settlements: They have no raison d’etre without a strong, constant connection to the State of Israel. The new road won’t whitewash the settlements and it won’t make the Palestinians disappear, it will only add another stain to Israel’s reputation.