Peace Now slams gov't W. Bank investments

Group claims Israel spending millions on settler roads at the expense of areas inside Green Line.

construction tekoa 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
construction tekoa 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Lack of funds for road safety has not stopped the government from investing NIS 315 million in infrastructure work on six roads outside the security fence in Judea and Samaria, according to a report released Sunday by Peace Now. "While in Israel the reports on the growing numbers of casualties in car accidents and the lack of appropriate infrastructure are hitting the headlines, the investment and construction of roads to the settlements in the West Bank continues to grow," charged Peace Now in its report. Overall, the report contended, the government spends more on roads in the West Bank than on roads within the Green Line. But figures from the Israel National Roads Company, which is responsible for all the inter-urban road systems, paint a different picture. According to its statistics, the NIS 315m. spent on West Bank roads is but a small fraction of the amount budgeted in 2007 for roadway infrastructures. The project to improve the Ra'anana-Kfar Saba Junction alone cost the state NIS 270m., and repairs slated for the 20 kilometers of Route 90 between Amiad and Yesud Hama'ala in the Upper Galilee were budgeted at NIS 400m. in 2007. In total, the National Roads Company announced almost NIS 6.3 billion worth of projects throughout the country in 2007, not counting those projects in the West Bank. Peace Now, however, quoted numbers from the Central Bureau of Statistics, which showed that from 1997 to 2004, the government spent 5.7 to 17.6 percent of its road construction budget on West Bank projects, even though settlers make up only 3.5% of the total population. For 2007, the report cited 33 kilometers of ongoing work spread over six roads, including widening work on Route 5 past the Ariel settlement and the Jerusalem-Jericho road leading to the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. Also on that list was a new bypass road, under construction southeast of Bethlehem to Jerusalem and worth NIS 142m., that would benefit four settlements: Tekoa, Asfar, Ma'aleh Amos and Nokdim, where Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman lives. A new road is also being built into the settlement of Ma'aleh Michmash, which is also outside the security fence. Lastly, some 6.5 km. of road is being widened from the Meitar checkpoint to the Shima settlement in the southern Hebron hills, and a new 3.5-km. road is under construction from the A-Zaim checkpoint to the Almon settlement. According to Peace Now, this work services 33,279 settlers who own 6,390 vehicles - meaning that the government has spent some NIS 50,000 per settler car. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip attacked the report as lies and half-truths with little basis in reality. Peace Now is exploiting road fatalities to further their political aims, council chairman Dani Dayan told The Jerusalem Post. Among the roads Peace Now lists as settler roads are those used by everyone in Israel, including the heavily-trafficked route from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, said the council in its statement. Peace Now Director-General Yariv Oppenheimer countered that the Jerusalem-Jericho road is the only one on the list that is widely used; all the others benefit only the settlers. But the council said that many settler roads not included in the report are heavily used by all drivers in the country, including Route 1 near Latrun, Route 443 between Maccabim and Jerusalem, and Route 5.