Haaretz (Editorial)
January 5, 2010 - 1:00am

Less than a week after Israel's highest court ordered the state to lift its ban on Palestinian motorists from a highway that stretches into the West Bank, left-wing activists are denouncing new plans on Tuesday to build a road on West Bank land which they claim is intended for use by Israelis only.

According to an Army Radio report, planning officials are diligently laying the groundwork for Highway 20, an artery which will connect Highway 443 ? the road which has remained off limits to Palestinian traffic since the outbreak of the second intifada - with the northern neighborhoods of Jerusalem, including Pisgat Ze'ev.

Officials at Peace Now slammed the plan for the road, which they say will be built on privately owned Palestinian land to be condemned for the project and will cater solely to Israeli motorists.

Peace Now, which submitted an official complaint to the Transportation Ministry's planning committee, says that the planned highway will usurp land in the adjacent West Bank village of Beit Hanina.

"This is a political highway," Hagit Ofran, the head of Peace Now's Settlement Watch project, told Army Radio. "The purpose of the highway is to create facts on the ground which will have bearing on future decisions relating to a two-state solution."

While the paving of Highway 20 has yet to begin, the Transportation Ministry has allocated some NIS 80 million for the highway's construction.

The government views Highway 20 as a means to ease the traffic burden that has plagued the French Hill section of Jerusalem.

The highway's opponents hope that last week's High Court ruling allowing for Palestinian motorists' use of Highway 443 will serve as a precedent.

"Preventing local residents from using a highway simply because they are Palestinians is discrimination that is forbidden," Barak Medina, a professor at Hebrew University's Faculty of Law, told Army Radio. "While the [443 ruling] did not speak of apartheid, unfortunately this case is not that far from apartheid."

The Jerusalem municipality said in response that Highway 20 will be equally accessible to both Arabs and Jews.

"In order to prevent condemnation of Palestinian land, a bridge will be built and compensation will be offered to those whose land will be used to build the bridge's columns," the municipality said.


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