If I'd wanted to move to a West Bank settlement, I would have. Instead, my family and I decided to move to Modi'in, the country's newest city, built just on the pre-1967 side of the Green Line. But with all the local outrage over last week's High Court decision about Route 443, I'm beginning to feel like I moved to a settlement after all.
Running through the West Bank, Route 443 is a quick, easy way for Modi'in residents, myself included, to get to Jerusalem. It's safe, too, because the 55,000 Palestinians who live in the villages along the route aren't allowed to drive on it, not since the attacks, some of them fatal, on Israeli motorists early in the intifada.
But now the court says the mounds of dirt and garbage that the IDF dumped at the edges of those villages to block their access to 443 must be removed. The villagers must be allowed to drive the highway because much of it was built on their land, the travel ban has badly disrupted their lives and an occupying power doesn't have the right to do that to the people under occupation, ruled the court.
Modi'in, a city of some 75,000, is pissed off. The terror attacks will return, people are saying - a homemade bomb was found at the side of Route 443 a few days before the court decision. Mayor Haim Bibas is fuming about judges who "sit in their ivory tower," and he promises, "We're not going to take this lying down." At the national level Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "reacted furiously" to the court decision, wrote Yediot Aharonot, as did his right-wing cabinet ministers, who fear the ruling will lead to Palestinians being allowed to drive on all the "Israelis-only" roads in Judea and Samaria, and then where will we be?
OPPONENTS OF the decision say they're arguing for security - but in truth, they're not. If and when Palestinians are allowed to drive on Route 443 again, there will still be a very simple way for us residents of Modi'in to drive safely to and from Jerusalem: on Route 1.
The main highway to Jerusalem doesn't go through the West Bank and doesn't have any Palestinians on it. Even now we in Modi'in take Route 1 when it's more convenient than 443; during the intifada, we did so regularly. It takes longer, there are traffic jams at rush hour, it's not a luxurious short-cut like 443, but it's no worse than what hundreds of thousands of commuters go through every day.
So my neighbors who oppose the court decision aren't really arguing for security - they're arguing for convenience. In the end, they're arguing for privilege.
Like I said, I drive the 443, and the reason is that I'm too lazy and self-indulgent to put up with Route 1. And frankly, my conscience doesn't bother me; I guess I'm just not that conscientious, at least not about routine injustices like driving on an Israelis-only highway built on land taken from Palestinians who aren't themselves allowed to drive on it.
But now that the court has ruled that those Palestinian villagers are also entitled to use the 443, am I going to fight to keep them off, to keep it strictly for Israelis going through the West Bank, because I don't want to hassle driving Route 1?
That's more than self-indulgence, that's taking an active role in preserving the occupation. If individuals in Modi'in want to do that, they can, but when the mayor does so with the backing of probably a majority of his constituents, not to mention the prime minister, other right-wing politicians and maybe even most of the Israeli public, then I say: Not in my name. And I'm not alone in this town, either, even if we peaceniks have become a distinct minority.
BUT THEN what should we do in response to Palestinian shootings of Israeli motorists in the West Bank - nothing?
No, we should send the IDF to deal with the terrorists like it deals with terrorists - at the same time that we're ending the occupation, or should be, as speedily and efficiently as possible
Shooting at motorists is wrong, especially right after the motorists' government has tried to make peace with you, which was the case with the killings on Route 443 at the start of the intifada.
But subjugating a nation and taking its land is also wrong, and perpetuating that injustice is not the way to deal with those Palestinians who killed Israeli drivers or who would do so again.
Modi'in, whose cornerstone was laid in 1995 by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, was not created as some sort of adjunct West Bank settlement. Just the opposite - it was created as an answer to the settlements that had been the pet project of Rabin's Likud predecessors. The governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir had built on the Palestinian side of the Green Line; the Rabin government would build on the Israeli side, and Modi'in would be its showcase.
In those days there were visionary maps showing the city as a crossroads on a superhighway linking Syria and Jordan with Israel. Not for nothing was Modi'in given the official motto "City of the Future."
And now that it's throwing in with the occupation, now that it's taking on the voice of a West Bank settlement, that motto turns out, bitterly enough, to have been rather prophetic.
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