Easing Palestinian traffic restrictions gains little praise

"I don’t see this as some great gift," says Abu Dis resident.

west bank road 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
west bank road 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
As part of a series of steps announced by the IDF on Sunday to ease Palestinian traffic in the West Bank, the Keidar road south of Ma’aleh Adumim was opened to unrestricted traffic on Monday, raising a number of security concerns for Israelis who live in the area and drawing little, if any, enthusiasm from Palestinians who are now able to use the road.
The roughly 10 km. stretch of road – which runs from a Border Police checkpoint near the entrance to the Palestinian village of Jub al-Rum, past Keidar and on to the entrance to Ma’aleh Adumim – had until Monday been closed off to Palestinian traffic and used mainly by Keidar residents shuttling from their community to Ma’aleh Adumim or onward to Jerusalem.
Palestinians, however, had to loop around, going through Jub al-Rum, Sawahera and on to Abu Dis, before passing Eizariya and then rejoining the road at the often-gridlocked traffic circle in front of Ma’aleh Adumim.
“It saves a lot of time,” one Abu Dis resident, who declined to give his name, told The Jerusalem Post as he exited the newly-opened road and then merged into a line of cars waiting to cross through the Border Police checkpoint.
“I work in Ramallah and it makes it easier to get there or to go see family members that live off of the [newly-opened] road. To get to work it saves me about an hour and I don’t have to go through the traffic circle after Eizariya, which can often take 30 or 40 minutes alone.”
Asked if he felt if the road’s opening would lend to a “friendlier atmosphere” with regards to the ongoing indirect peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, the resident said “no.”
“I don’t like to get into politics,” he said. “But I don’t see this as some great gift. Why was the road closed in the first place? Why were we made to drive on such an inconvenient route at all?”
Ismail Ismail, a Bethlehem resident who is working on a construction project inside Keidar, said the road opening had now saved him more than 40 minutes on his daily commute to work, and was a welcomed step with regards to easing Palestinian traffic in the area.
In Keidar, residents expressed their reservations about the new road, albeit not in the context of the current round of negotiations.
“We’re more worried about traffic issues and security,” the head of security at Keidar, who also declined to give his name, told the Post. “The Palestinians drive erratically, they’re terribly unsafe on the road, and we’re worried that now the road will just become a prime location for accidents.”
“I almost got into a wreck with a Palestinian driver on my way up here – less than 10 minutes ago,” he said. “There’s also a worry about security issues,” he continued.
“Sure there’s a checkpoint back there,” he said, pointing in the direction of Jub al-Rum. “But can they really stop and check every car? Even before this section of road was opened, they caught people there with guns, terrorists have been arrested [there].”
Keidar resident Moshe Ben-Hamav echoed the security head’s comments, telling the Post he too was concerned over the future of the road. “This road was built in 2000 for the residents of Keidar,” Ben-Hamav said. “And there were never Palestinian drivers on it before, except in humanitarian cases... but now there’s a lot of traffic, [the Palestinians] drive wildly, they don’t adhere to the traffic laws, and we’re worried about sharing the road with them.”
Ben-Hamav added that residents of Keidar were set to discuss the issue at a community meeting on Monday night, and would likely emerge with a unified position.
“[The issue of the road] is not on the schedule, and we’re not going to make any [binding] decisions,” he said. “But if we decide it’s in our interest, if enough people feel unsafe, than I would expect that some sort of action is taken. Maybe we’ll block the road ourselves.”