Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ceremoniously opened a new road in east
Jerusalem on Sunday that eased traffic congestion but angered the Palestinians
who oppose all Israeli activity over the pre-1967 lines.
of the NIS 180 million project for 400 meters of Highway 20 asphalt allows
residents of the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neveh
Ya’acov to link up with Route 443 without traveling through French Hill and
clogging up its roads.
Israeli Arabs living in the east Jerusalem
neighborhood of Beit Hanina will similarly be able to scoot more easily onto
The road’s interchange was named for Netanyahu’s father,
Benzion, who passed away on April 30 last year at age 102.
Early in the
morning, Netanyahu stood there as he inaugurated the road along with
Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
are working continuously and systematically to link Jerusalem with itself and to
the other parts of the country, because Zion is important to us and it was
important to my father,” said Netanyahu.
“He wasn’t named ‘Benzion’ for
nothing. It says everything – Benzion, literally ‘Son of Zion,’” Netanyahu
Fatah spokesman Husam Zomlot attacked the opening of the road and
said it showed that Israel was not serious about a two-state
“It is just another proof that Mr. Netanyahu has only one plan
for one state – and that is the state for the settlers,” Zomlot said.
is another proof that his entire agenda is that of further colonization and
providing all the services possible for the settlers,” Zomlot said.
position of my movement, the leading party of the PLO, is that there shall be no
peace and no political settlement without east Jerusalem as the capital of the
Palestinian state,” Zomlot said.
But Netanyahu has always insisted that a
united Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any twostate
Speaking on Sunday morning at the road, he said that his father
had taught him “that our state is a deposit for the generations of Jews who
dreamt and prayed and fought and sacrificed so that we might return to our land
and renew in it our independence.
“He taught me about the enormous
responsibility that we have to ensure the security of the State of Israel and
build up its future. This heritage needs to unite us all every day, and so it
does,” Netanyahu said.
Katz said the new road was part of an ongoing
effort to improve access to the capital, which included an upgrade to Route 1
and plans for a highspeed rail line to Jerusalem.
“The opening of Highway
20 and the Benzion interchange will ease traffic congestion in northern
Jerusalem and allow hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists additional
access that is easy and quick,” Barkat said.
But Hagit Ofran of Peace Now
said that a small portion of Highway 20 goes through the West Bank, as it leaves
Jerusalem’s municipal border and links to Route 443, which also cuts through the
West Bank before linking with the major artery to Tel Aviv.
said, the main issue was that such infrastructure deepens Israel’s hold on an
area that should be part of a Palestinian state and makes it more difficult to
come to a two-state solution.
The opening of the road comes amidst a
renewed push by the United States to resume direct negotiations between Israel
and the Palestinians, negotiations which have been largely frozen since December