Israel Okays Major West Bank Settlement Roads, Seizing Large Tracts of Palestinian Land

Civil Administration approves two roads leading to isolated settlements, in a move activists say is 'part of the government's ongoing surrendering to settlers' demands'

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The Palestinian village of Hawara near Route 60, May 12, 2019.
The Palestinian village of Hawara near Route 60, May 12, 2019. Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Israel approved two major transportation projects in the West Bank, setting the ground for a seizure of large tracts of Palestinian land.

The permits issued by the Civil Administration last week for the paving of two roads leading to relatively isolated Israeli settlements are set to go into effect in July.

The planned Hawara Bypass, stretching 5.5 km according to the NGO Peace Now, would serve the settlement of Yitzhar, south of the Palestinian city of Nablus, and other, smaller settlements north of Tapuach Junction.

A second road, the Al-Aroub Bypass, which Peace Now says would be 7 kilometers, would serve settlers in the Hebron Hills.

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The existing Route 60, which crosses the West Bank, goes through several Palestinian villages. Israeli settlers have called for the paving of bypass roads, claiming driving through Palestinian villages endangers them, following several attempted attacks near Hawara over the past few years, including an attempted stabbing in recent weeks.

Israel's political leadership had promised settlers it would adhere to their demands, leading to the subcommittee on roads under the Civil Administration's Supreme Planning Council approving the proposed projects.

Under the plan, 406 dunams of land would be seized from the Palestinian towns of Burin, Hawara, Beita, Awarta, Yasuf, Yatama and Al-Sawiyah for the Hawara Byapass, and additional 401 dunams from Beit Ummar's and Halahul's area for the Al-Aroub Bypass.

Peace Now, which advocates for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, protested the plan, saying it is "part of the government's ongoing surrender to the demands of the settlers, who know full well that good roads are key to further development" of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.

The organization gave the example of a similar controversial project known as "Lieberman Road," leading from south-eastern Jerusalem to the settlements of Tekoa and Nokdim, where former Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman resides.

According to Peace Now's data, housing units in settlements near the road nearly doubled in numbers since it was opened, suggesting a correlation between new roads and expansion of settlements.