Ha'aretz - 08/09/2004
By Amira Hass
It's only logical and self-evident that the road from Bir Zeit to Attara, north of Ramallah, be upgraded. It's a narrow, dangerous road, without lighting, or median lines, or sidewalks or even shoulders to the road. For the same reasons, the Ein Ariq road west of Ramallah cries out for improvement, as does the Nahalin-Husan road west of Bethlehem. Those are only three arteries of the road network in the West Bank that the Palestinian Authority planned to improve by the end of the 1990s, with help from the donor countries as part of the Oslo proces.
But over the last four years, those roads and others like them became the only roads, the main avenues that bore all the Palestinian traffic in their regions and between regions in the West Bank. Israel prohibits Palestinians from using the main inter-urban highways in the West Bank or it drastically limits their rights to use those roads, which are mainly for the use of the settlers. In recent years, thousands of Palestinian vehicles have been daily directed to use the secondary roads, banned from the main highways.
The three roads come from a list of 30 that Israel told the World Bank it wants to see upgraded. Other roads for Palestinians, some new, some existent, some to be upgraded with tunnels and rotaries, will be added to the list that Israel expects the donor states to finance.
The logic is clear here, too. The settlements are a given, a fact. The danger to the lives of the settlers and other Israeli civilians on the "joint" roads is tangible, as has been proven by many drive-by shootings. But freedom of movement for the Palestinians, as the World Bank has stated, is vital for economic recovery.
The donor nations are committed to help the Palestinian Authority. Therefore, build separate roads for the Palestinians. And since there is no partner for peace and negotiations, we will continue to develop for our citizens a separate network of roads, which will bring them even closer to sovereign Israel and continue to encourage new settlers to move to the settlements.
Seemingly, it's a temporary, innocent solution, essentially reactive, answering the need to protect the safety of Israeli citizens because of the current reality. In effect, the creation of two separate road networks is a logical step, utterly not innocent or accidental, a part of the long-term systematic planning of the settlements that began almost as far back as 1967. Its purpose: to expand the borders of the state of Israel as much as possible, according to the spreading and strengthening of the settlements.
What makes the Israeli planning system so great is that every stage can be explained as an ad-hoc reaction, or the whim of this or that government or pressure group, ignoring the initial goal. Thus, at every stage, the silently compliant can be counted on to accept the latest development, even if they say they are against settlements in principle.
If Yossi Beilin now supports leaving Ma'aleh Adumim and Givat Ze'ev under Israeli control because they are large and established settlements, in another five years he and his colleagues from the Geneva initiative will be forced to support leaving Givat Assaf and Itamar in place, as each will be a well-established neighborhood of some full-fledged Israeli city.
The donor states, if they finance now the work on the Palestinian roads Israel wants upgraded and improved, will be contributing to the temporary relief of many Palestinians. But they will be direct accessories to turning available land for farming and construction into unnecessary asphalt, further damaging the landscape and environment; and they will assist in consolidating a uniquely Israeli regime of separation and apartheid, making permanent the separation of neighboring communities divided on ethnic grounds, in an area where most of the land has been taken away for the benefit of a dominant minority.
The Jews will have broad, expansive, green communities with "high" standards of living, a developed infrastructure, as much water as they want - the "First World." Beside them will be a "Third World" of suffocatingly dense communities, cut off from other communities and limited in their contacts because of a web of endless roads, the Israeli law and its army, and subject to a strict regime of water quotas and allocation. And thus, while the international economic aid is meant to serve as a strategic instrument for a two-state solution along the borders of June 4, 1967, it is turned into an instrument of the Israeli settlement policies.
The donor states are so absurdly financing infrastructure work at the request of the PA, that the Palestinians have become unwitting accessories to the Israeli settlement enterprise. For long-term national reasons, they can oppose upgrading the roads that Israel allows them to use according to Israeli priorities. Then Israel will wave around the argument that the Palestinian leadership is once again sacrificing the welfare of its people - and continue to drastically limit the freedom of movement of the Palestinians. Or the Palestinians can agree to the paving of separate roads because of the clear and immediate needs of the residents. Thus they can free the donor states of the need to explain to their taxpayers why, as donor nations, they are helping to build and maintain a new apartheid regime.