Israelis building road that separates Palestinians

August 11, 2007|By New York Times News Service.

JERUSALEM -- Israel is constructing a road through the West Bank, east of Jerusalem, that will allow both Israelis and Palestinians to travel along it - separately.

There are two pairs of lanes, one for each group of people, separated by a tall wall of concrete patterned to look like Jerusalem stones, a beautification effort indicating that the road is meant to be permanent. The Israeli side has many exits; the Palestinian side has few.

The point of the road, according to those who planned it under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is to permit Israel to build more settlements around East Jerusalem, cutting the city off from the West Bank, but allowing Palestinians to travel unimpeded north and south through Israeli-held land.

"The Americans demanded from Sharon contiguity for a Palestinian state," said Shaul Arieli, a reserve colonel in the army who participated in the 2000 Camp David negotiations and specializes in maps. "This road was Sharon's answer - to build a road for Palestinians between Ramallah and Bethlehem, but not to Jerusalem. This was how to connect the West Bank while keeping Jerusalem united and not giving Palestinians any blanket permission to enter East Jerusalem."

Sharon talked of "transportational contiguity" for Palestinians in a future Palestinian state - which means that while Israeli settlements would jut into the area, Palestinian cars on the road would pass unimpeded through Israeli-controlled territory and even cross through areas enclosed by the Israeli separation barrier.

To Daniel Seidemann, a lawyer who advises an Israeli advocacy group called Ir Amim, which works for Israeli-Palestinian cooperation in Jerusalem, the road suggests an ominous map of the future - one in which Israel keeps nearly all of East Jerusalem and a ring of Israeli settlements surrounding it, providing a cordon of Israelis between largely Arab East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, which will become part of a future Palestinian state.

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