For years, apologists for Israeli policy in the occupied territories, such as CAMERA, have claimed the system of “Jewish-only” roads did not exist, since they are intermittently open to Palestinian traffic. The system has been de facto and not de jure. According to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv, that may be about to change and become official Israeli policy, with a set of little-travelled Jewish-only superhighways scarring the West Bank, whilst Palestinians are consigned to use a system of smaller roundabout roads.
Israel plans separate roads for West Bank Palestinians
JERUSALEM, Oct 19 (AFP) –
Israel was Wednesday considering the imposition of a permanent ban on Palestinians using major highways in the West Bank in a bid to improve security for settlers living in the occupied territory.
Members of the army’s central command were expected to meet to discuss the plan which has been denounced by the Palestinian Authority as tantamount to a form of apartheid.
The Maariv daily said that the army had been given the green light earlier this week to begin implementing plans to separate the Israeli and Palestinian populations, the first phase of which would see certain roads designated for either Israelis or Palestinians.
The plans had been drawn up some time ago but were only dusted down in the aftermath of a Palestinian shooting attack near the Gush Etzion settlement bloc which left three Israelis dead.
A source close to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon confirmed the existence of a such a separation plan but stopped short of saying that it was already being implemented.
“This project has been in existence for some time and we will have no option but to implement it if the Palestinian Authority continues to do nothing to prevent terrorist attacks,” said the official in Sharon’s office.
“We are not going just sit with our arms folded while all the information that we have indicates that the terrorist organisations are going to intensify their operations” in the West Bank,” he added.
Israel imposed a temporary ban on private Palestinian vehicles using some of the major roads in the West Bank in the aftermath of Sunday’s attack which was the first since last month’s pullout from the Gaza Strip. Travellers instead could only make their way in buses.
The separation plan would force Palestinians instead to use back roads to travel across the territory, few of which are in a good state of repair. In contrast, the highways around West Bank settlements are well-maintained.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said that the plan had ominous echoes of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
“These Israeli procedures forbidding Palestinian cars from the roads are a humanitarian crime which will put us back 70 years and punish all the Palestinian people,” he told AFP.
“If it continues so that Palestinians can only use the small roads, there will be in effect two classes for the Palestinians and Israelis — exactly like the apartheid system in South Africa.”
Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, due in Washington late Wednesday, is expected to urge US President George W. Bush to use his influence on Israel not to increase its restrictions on the West Bank.
As well as imposing the ban on private vehicles in the aftermath of Sunday’s attack, Israel also announced that it was freezing contacts with the Palestinian Authority.
See also: Israeli Army Readying to Complete Apartheid Road System, WW3 Report# 86
B’Tselem: Forbidden roads: the discriminatory West Bank road regime, August 2004
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