palestinian car west bank checkpoint aj.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee subcommittee plans to ask the prime minister and the defense minister to keep the Zion Route in Hebron closed to Palestinian vehicles. The road is due to be partially reopened at the end of this week.
The route, which links Kiryat Arba to the Cave of the Patriarchs in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron, has been closed to Palestinian cars since the second intifada broke out in 2000. Since February, settlers have been battling the Defense Ministry to keep the road closed.
The ministry has wanted to partially reopen it to vehicles owned by the 80 Palestinian families that live alongside it, who cannot at this time access their homes by car from that road.
Although it initially looked to partially reopen the road as a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the issue is also the subject of a petition to the High Court of Justice by Palestinians who live along the road, and the Hebron Municipality.
In mid-July the state told the High Court, which is in the process of adjudicating the matter, that it planned to open the route to those 80 Palestinian families no later than the end of July.
Earlier this month, the state said, the Defense Ministry had debated but ultimately rejected re-opening to Palestinian pedestrian traffic Shuhada Street, which is located in the Israeli-controlled section of Hebron near Beit Hadassah.
But it added it was possible that the matter of Shuhada Street would be reexamined after the Zion Route was opened.
On Sunday, MK Ze'ev Elkin (Likud), who chairs the subcommittee that deals with matters pertaining to Judea and Samaria, toured the area along with MK Aryeh Eldad (National Union), who is also a member of the subcommittee. Both men spoke out against the move.
"We shouldn't take any life-threatening steps in an area that has already proven to be dangerous," said Eldad.
Hebron Jewish community spokeswoman Orit Struck said that prior to closing the road there were many shooting attacks there against Israeli vehicles; in fact, it had the highest number of attacks of any route in Israel.
The state in its response to the court said that Hebron was a particularly dangerous area of Judea and Samaria. There is still an active and dangerous terror infrastructure within Hebron, it said.
In the last year, it said, the security forces had prevented six terrorist cells in the city from executing attacks against Israeli targets. Most of those cells were from Hamas, it added.
The state also pointed out that the terrorist who was responsible for the February 2008 suicide bombing in Dimona that killed one woman and wounded 40 others came from Hebron.
A year later, in February 2009, the army was able to stop an armed terrorist from south of Hebron from carrying out a suicide bombing, the state said.
It added that it has also thwarted dozens of stabbing attacks against Jews in Hebron and at the Cave of the Patriarchs.
Any decision to ease the situation for Palestinians in Hebron had to be done without creating a security risk, said the state.
According to Struck, the IDF commander who was with the subcommittee on the tour said that it opening the route would be dangerous.
But in the portion of the meeting open to the media, an IDF officer said that all that was happening here was that 80 families would be able to drive their cars to their homes.
Kiryat Arba Local Council head Malachi Levinger said that there were alternative routes that accomplished the same thing as reopening the Zion Route.
He noted that residents of Balfour Street in Jerusalem, who live next to the prime minister's residence, also have a problem with vehicle access to their homes for security reasons.
Hebron spokesman Noam Arnon said that reopening the route was purely a diplomatic move and that Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who received only 13 mandates, should not have the power to make this decision for the entire government.
Earlier in the day, Elkin and Eldad visited Shdema, the abandoned army base not far from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Homa. Settlers would like to build at this site rather than see the land handed over to the Palestinian town of Beit Sahour for a medical center and park.
The subcommittee has asked IDF and civil administration officials to meet with it in the Knesset, to discuss alternative sites for the hospital, as well as the possibility of renovating the abandoned military buildings at the site.