Settlers Question Cops' Crackdown on West Bank Drivers

Last week marked a historic moment for the settlement of Ofra - 35 years have passed since it was established. Its residents have seen it all: support from the government, the difficulties of evacuation, political attacks and the intimacy shared by the community. But no one expected this: A resident of the outpost of Amona, which is basically a neighborhood of Ofra, was driving on the potted road that links the outpost to the settlement. A traffic policeman lay in hiding, stopped him for not wearing his seat belt and gave him a ticket.

"Police in Amona," was the headline of the e-mail disseminated among the community, "and this time the police are giving tickets to drivers."

This, of course, is not the first instance. The Binyamin District Police made a decision recently, following requests by the heads of the communities, to step up law enforcement against traffic violations in the very center of traffic violator paradise: the settlements themselves.

Of course, no matter how trivial this issue may be, it too has become a subject of political debate.

In Beit El, which is also in Binyamin, a community policeman warned residents of the community that the policy had changed. One resident sent an e-mail to the residents of the settlement in response, asking to know why the law is not imposed also on Palestinians.

"Since we do not live in the bubble of Beit El alone, I would like you to take this opportunity to tell us how the police is enforcing the traffic laws on Route 60 and the roads connecting it," he wrote. "Not a day goes by that Arab drivers do not overtake me, completely ignoring the dividing white line, endangering the lives of all the passengers in the car."

The author of the e-mail wondered whether the police fear for their lives and that is the reason they do not impose the law on Arab drivers. "Are there priorities in terms of the seriousness of the problem [of traffic violations] or are policemen allotted where it is most convenient?" he asked.

The policeman responded to the e-mail by noting spots where the traffic police do patrol, acknowledging that there was a shortage of manpower, but adding that volunteers "also take patrol cars out to the field and contribute to the sovereignty of Israel over the highways."