NGO petitions against reopening Highway 443 to Palestinians

In the 1980s, Israel confiscated privately owned Palestinian land in villages situated along the highway to expand the route 443.

May 11, 2010 06:15
3 minute read.
A roadblock on Route 443.

checkpoint 443 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)


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The Shurat Hadin Israel Law Center organization on Monday petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of more than 1,000 Israelis who drive on Highway 443, asking it to reject as insufficient to ensure safety the security measures the IDF intends to apply when the road is reopened to Palestinian traffic on May 29.

Until such time as effective measures are in place, Palestinians should continue to be prohibited from driving on the road, Shurat Hadin attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner wrote.

In the 1980s, Israel confiscated privately owned Palestinian land in villages situated along the highway in order to expand and alter the route of Highway 443. The new route did not pass through any villages, was widened to four lanes and was intended as an alternative to Highway 1 linking Jerusalem and the coast.

In justifying the expropriation of Palestinian land for the reconstituted highway, the state promised the High Court that the residents of six Palestinian villages that had been linked by the old highway, and some of whose land had been expropriated to build the new route, would be allowed to use it.

However, during the first months of the second intifada, which erupted in late 2000, six Israelis were killed and many others were wounded by Palestinian terrorists while driving on the highway. The army responded by prohibiting all Palestinians from using the road.

Five months ago, in response to a petition by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the High Court ordered the army to lift the ban. In its decision, it added that the state had not adhered to the High Court ruling that ordered it to reopen the road to the Palestinians, “but only subject to an alternative security solution that will provide protection to the Israeli residents who make use of the road.”

Darshan-Leitner said that the army had failed to provide such protection.

She based her arguments on an expert opinion provided by ex-deputy chief of General Staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former head of the National Security Council.

Dayan wrote that “on the basis of my professional experience and expertise, I assert that the security arrangement that was applied in recent years along Highway 443, and particularly the closure of the road to Palestinian traffic, was the main factor in reducing the ability of the terrorist organizations to attack the drivers and passengers of the thousands of Israeli cars that move along the highway daily, and also an important factor in preventing terrorist attacks in the heart of Israel.”

As for the security arrangements that are to go into effect in the wake of the High Court ruling, Dayan wrote that “the [new] arrangement cannot be sufficient for security because of intertwining factors – the fact that cars can access the highway at various points, the fact that [terrorists] can get into cars driving on the highway and can alight from them to areas where they can find refuge. In today’s security and political situation and given the terms of the new security arrangements, it is not possible to provide security at a good level.”

Dayan warned that with these arrangements, Israel would “lose control” of what is happening on the highway.

According to the army’s plans, Palestinians will be able to access Highway 443 at Beit Sira and Beit Ghur el-Fawka. The IDF will establish checkpoints to search cars and question drivers before they are allowed onto the highway. The army will also man border crossing points east of Camp Ofer and west of the Atarot industrial zone. No Palestinian will be allowed to continue driving toward Modi’in to the west and Jerusalem to the southeast. Palestinian cars will also not be allowed to reach Ramallah from the highway.

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