Israel to make “apartheid” road system permanent in West Bank?

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


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

See our last post on Israel/Palestine.

  1. apartheid roads in palestinian west bank
    regarding David bloom’s article from 19 oct. 2005
    As an Israeli peace activist, I would like to add that the apartheid road system in the west bank has already been harshly implemented by the Israeli government over the past 5 years with catastrophic humanitarian and economical consequences for the 2 million Palestinians living there. So the govermental plan has been working de facto for quite a time, – the restrictions of movement that have been imposed make it nearly impossible to move within the West Bank, from village to village, and village to town. Going to work, going to school or going to a hospital has become a tedious sisyphic daily “enteprise”. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are denied arbitrarily,[officially for security reasons]Permit of passage that is required to go through the fifty permenant checkpoints, hundreds of earthmounds, ditches, cementblocks and barbed wire close in the villages making it impossible for private vehicles to travel, even if there would have been no apartheid road system, forcing more than 90 percent of the population to travel by Israeli authorised transportation, controlled at each checkpoint by the Israeli army. In Gaza the situation is even worse, especially since the Disengagement,the Palestinians have been locked in a massive prison controlled from all sides by the Israeli Occupation Army. Sadly, although the facts are publisized, most Americans, Europeans, and the majority of the Israelis simply deny it.

    1. Thanks Tsilli
      It’s partly the “temporary” discourse that allows for the continuous denial that an apartheid-like system exists in the West Bank. The separation barrier is said to be a “temporary” security measure up for renewal every five years, and it has been oft repeated in its defense that it can be dismantled if the Palestinians would just stop violence. But there’s nothing impermanent about the land, trees, the livelihoods destroyed by the wall, the thousands of people of Qalqilya who are encircled by the wall who have quietly emigrated. Recently, Mofaz, Olmert and others have publically suggesting making the barrier the permanent border — unilaterally.

      Right after this trial balloon about the roads was tossed up the US objected and the Israeli government issued a denial, which predictably the apologists jumped all over:

      Israel is not ‘moving ahead’ with plans to ‘permanently ban’ Palestinian traffic on West Bank roads. What has occurred ― in the wake of Sunday’s shooting and the many others that preceded it ― is further discussion of a how separate road systems might make the West Bank safer for travel, given the ongoing threat of drive-by terrorist fire. Such discussions are always conducted while balancing the humanitarian concerns to peaceful Palestinians.

      The following is from The Economist on Oct. 22:

      Signs of the creeping separation have been there for a while. The UN’s Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs has found that the number of fixed checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank has dropped by at least a third this year, in line with an Israeli promise in February to ease restrictions. However, that has mostly helped movement between small Palestinian villages and their nearby urban centres. The highways between the main towns, on the other hand, are increasingly lined with fences and barriers to prevent access, and there are now three times as many “flying checkpoints

    2. Yonatan Pollac – “Anarchists against the Wall”
      To David Bloom or Anyone:
      I have been reading your columns for months and I find them interesting and quite refreshing. Most Far Left Blogs are less Balanced.
      I have two questions to you and I hope you can answer these satisfactorily.
      1) – On the Whole- Is Arab Islamic culture an open progressive culture that allows self criticism and true tolerance of other ideolgies and movements, and more importantly – other cultures and religions?
      2) Do you believe that it was morally correct for Yonatan Pollack to continue his “demonstrations” against the security barier( which even the EU acknowledged has saved lives by preventing IslamoFascist Homicide Bombers) even While Ariel Sharon is fighting for his Life in a Jerusalem Hospital?

      1. To Nathan
        1) If you were actually concerned about the fate of Berbers, Tuareg, Fur, Nubians, Kurds and others facing Arabization, your question might merit a reply. But I suspect you’re trying to come up with yet another excuse to deny Palestinian rights. If Israelis don’t like the way Arabs behave, they should have chosen someone else’s land to colonize.

        2) Did the bullozers stop because Arik is sick? The barrier would have been built quicker, thus saved more lives, had it been built more than less on the Green Line. But 80% of it is being built in contravention of international law and convention inside the occupied West Bank. Pollack is not protesting because Israel is building a barrier inside its own territory. He’s protesting because it’s being built on someone else’s land, illegally, conveniently in just the right places to separate Palestinian villages from their farmland so that illegal settlements — and they are all illegal under international law — can expand onto those fields. Because the thief-in-chief has become ill, you expect those struggling for the rights of the victims to observe a day of mourning? Very confusing logic. Sharon is the one who redrew the fence’s map to include the settlements. When the fence was first proposed by Haim Ramon in ’02, it was closer to the Green Line. Israel’s security experts gave Ramon’s route their stamp of approval. Read this B’Tselem/Bimkom report that explains the wall is built in its current location to steal as much land as possible for settlement expansion:

        Note as well, the Shin Bet is questioning the efficacy of the fence:

        “The Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces attribute the reduction mainly to the improvement in their joint capability to foil terrorist attacks and to act against terrorist organizations.

        “The security fence is no longer mentioned as the major factor in preventing suicide bombings, mainly because the terrorists have found ways to bypass it. The fence does make it harder for them, but the flawed inspection procedures at its checkpoints, the gaps and uncompleted sections enable suicide bombers to enter Israel.”(Ha’aretz, Jan. 1)

        In other words, had the barrier been built on the Green Line, where it could have been built faster because a) it would be three times shorter b) not faced legal challenges and protests that slow its construction, moreover, it would not be creating more enmity by stealing land, valuable land and resources that will leave a unviable, unstable and irredentist Palestinian entity, it would have saved more lives.

        A few years ago, a couple of Israeli diplomats were visiting China. A Chinese government official took them to the Great Wall. He explained how much it cost, how complicated it was to build, how long it took. Despite all this, he said, it did not succeed in keeping the Mongols out. “Israel would do well to remember this, ” he said.