IDF ‘endangered lives’ on West Bank roads

Among the top issues was communication failures and disputes over which body was actually in charge.

A view shows the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, June 30, 2020. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
A view shows the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, June 30, 2020.
(photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)
The IDF had placed lives at risk by not ensuring the safe construction and maintenance of roads in Area C of the West Bank, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman warned in an investigative report published on Monday.
The report estimated that between 2016 and 2018, there were 272 car accidents in Area C caused by road defects alone.
The Comptroller’s Office was tasked with investigating the time period between September 2018 and October 2019, but it scope went beyond that narrow time frame.
The report it issued portrayed a system of chaos when it came to West Bank roads in which, arguments over responsibility combined with lack of communication made upkeep of 1,500 kilometers of paved roads in Area C impossible. 
Overall road maintenance the West Bank's Area C, falls under the prevue of the Defense Ministry and the IDF, which has full military and civilian control. Civilian matters go through the offices of the Coordinator of the Government Activities in the Territories and its Civil Administration.
This did not include unpaved roads or those within existing settlements, which are under the prevue of the local council or municipality.
Paved roads outside the settlements are maintained with the help of the Ministries of Transportation and Construction and Housing.
According to the Comptroller, a dispute between the Ministries of Defense and Transportation over who had responsibilities for the roads, including those that lead to IDF bases, meant that significant safety failures, including those with regard to the bridge of the Og River, had not been addressed.
It showed how a dispute over responsibility prevented the upgrading of that bridge for years, with resolution of the issue relegated to signage limiting tonnage on the bridge to avoid collapse.
Data inconsistencies in the geographical information systems also played a role, the comptroller added.
According to his report that IDF had a practice of “breaking through roads” and moving road blocks for security reasons without coordinating with other authoritative bodies and without properly providing road markers for motorists to ensure that no road safety hazards occur as a result.
Such actions have create safety issues to the point “endangering lives,” the comptroller report stated.
Englman recommended that the establishment of a clear chain of responsibility between the IDF and the ministries as well as an up-to-date road survey for Judea and Samaria.
The IDF said in response that it had established a chain of command with respect to the roads, save for two instances. It said that it was also addressing the other issues raised, including creating a point person for each instances in which the IDF had to make changes to roads for security reasons, so that it would be coordinated with all the relevant departments.
Efrat Council lhead Oded Revivi said the report showed the need for the application of sovereignty over all West Bank settlements, including his own. He has long supported such a move, but only in conjunction with the US peace plan.
Revivi recalled how Alternative Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benny Gantz had met with settler leaders several months ago and told them the Civil Administration was already struggling to meet the needs of the over 400,000 Israelis that live in Judea and Samaria.
The issue of road safety only highlights the problem, fo which the only real solution is “the application of Israeli law in the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria” so that the lives of the Israelis there can be normalized, said Revivi.