Thousands of Palestinian workers and vehicles have brought the Meitar crossing to a complete standstill twice a day, the Hebron Regional Council charged as it embarked on a campaign to secure funding for a passageway between its region of the West Bank and the Negev.
“It’s chaos,” said South Hebron Regional Hills Council head Yochai Damri.
On Monday, Damri presented a dramatic video illustrating the problem to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee’s sub group on Judea and Samaria.
It showed a semi-aerial shot of the large open-air parking lots for Palestinian cars that flank both sides of the road near the crossing.
It also highlighted the extent to which the road itself has become a parking lot in the early morning and late afternoon hours.
Until a year ago, Palestinian workers arrived at the crossing mostly on foot, or in vans or buses and walked through.
Now, because of the car park, many of them drive, creating bumper-to-bumper traffic near the Meitar crossing on the West Bank side.
In addition, the number of Palestinian workers who cross over on a daily basis has grown from 3,000 a decade ago to some 12,000 today, Damri told the committee.
But the crossing and the roads have remained the same. The site also lacks adequate security, he added.
“Imagine 12,000 football fans coming out of a stadium through one exit, and they are not my fans but those form the opposing team,” Damri told the committee. “Would you make do with four policemen to ensure public safety?”
There is no pedestrian passage for the Palestinians so they often walk on the road among the cars, he explained. On top of that, Damri said, there is Israeli vehicular traffic, including from the South Hebron Hills residents, and truck traffic including from two quarries.
Photographer and videographer Moshe Daly said the backup reaches as far as his settlement of Teneh Omarim.
Anyone who wants to exit the community, either in the direction of Beersheba or Jerusalem, could be stuck on the road for 40 minutes, he told The Jerusalem Post
. “It’s impossible to leave the settlement early in the morning or in the late afternoon.”
“It is scary,” said Teneh Omarim resident Liba Shakira. “It has become almost a mission just to get out of there without getting into an accident.”
Last week, Shakira said, she left Teneh Omarim for a family event and after sitting in the car for an hour, turned around and headed back home.
Committee chairman Moti Yogev called for the crossing to be redesigned and for money to be allocated for its upgrade, including a safe place for the workers to be dropped off and to walk.
The infrastructure must meet the demand of the number of users at the crossing, he said.
There are some 28 crossing in the West Bank, out of which 13, like Meitar, are also for those walking on foot.
At the meeting, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Bayit Yehudi) gave the committee an update on road projects in the West Bank being built at a cost of more than one billion shekels.
A tender will be issued in three months for the Luban bypass road by Beit Aryeh. Plans for bypass roads for Huwara and Al-Aroub have been deposited, one of the later stages in the planning process.
Route 437 is scheduled to be opened beginning at the start of 2019. Work on route 446 is in the planning stage, as is work on Route 60 in the direction of Elazar.
Work on the Kalandia crossing is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2018.
Defense Ministry transportation officer Israel Afriot said the Bruchin junction was not up to standards and that an upgrade was still in the planning stages.
Ben-Dahan said his office was constantly working to improve the roads in Judea and Samaria, which are the lifeline for the region’s growing population.
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