While the public’s attention is focused on the coronavirus and the endless attempts to form a government, “life itself” continues as usual: Israel has started planning a new road in the West Bank that Defense Minister Naftali Bennett has already nicknamed “the sovereignty road.”
This is a separate road for Palestinians, and it will let Israel build a settlement in the E1 region. E1 is an area of 12 square kilometers (4.6 square miles) that has been appended to the municipality of Ma’aleh Adumim. Plans to build in this area have been frozen for years because construction there would sever the West Bank in two – a step with dramatic political and diplomatic ramifications.
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The new road ostensibly solves this problem. Its declared intention is to divert Palestinian traffic from Route 1 to a road that will pass through the area’s Palestinian villages and leave Route 1 “free” of Palestinians. In Bennett’s sanitized language, this “will prevent unnecessary friction with the Palestinian population.”
The new road will let Israel continue building the separation barrier around Ma’aleh Adumim and E1 and bar Palestinian access to Route 1 in the section closest to these areas. It’s a continuation of the “apartheid road” that has separate lanes for Israelis and Palestinians with a wall dividing the lanes.
The new road is supposed to run underneath the separation barrier. According to Bennett, this will negate the claim that Israel is severing the West Bank in a way that doesn’t enable Palestinian movement, because Israel will be creating “transportation contiguity” for them. The road will join Route 443, which separates the villages to its north and south, and the underground roads beneath it that connect those villages – roads that Israel, without shame, calls “fabric of life roads.”
To all this should also be added the “bypass” roads that Israel has planned and built in the West Bank in recent years – they bypass Palestinian villages and allow settlers to travel through the West Bank without fear of encountering the local people.
At least Bennett isn’t hiding his plans. The press statement that announced construction of the new road ended with the words “applying sovereignty – in deeds, not in words.” To the defense minister’s credit, it must be said that he makes a mockery of any pretension that Israel is managing the West Bank for the benefit of the Palestinians and their “fabric of life.”
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But when this announcement is added to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements a few weeks ago that Israel should resume construction efforts in E1, it’s clear where his right-wing government will be heading if it remains in power – toward annexing territory and deepening apartheid via separate roads and legal systems.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.