The way it came about

A timeline of the legal challenges facing 443.

Since its inception, highway 443 has been beset with legal challenges. What follows is a timeline of relevant events.
• Early 1980s – The Israeli military administration in the West Bank announced that it intended to expropriate Palestinian land in order to build highway 443. A group of Palestinian landowners petitioned the High Court of Justice against the move, claiming that the road would serve only Israelis and not those under occupied rule and was therefore outside military jurisdiction and a breach of international law. In its ruling, the court acknowledged the Palestinians’ claim, stating that “If the petitioners are indeed correct that the purpose of the enterprise is not the (civilian or military) needs of the area but rather those of Israel, then they are correct in their legal claim that this objective is extraneous to the legitimate considerations of the military commander.”
However, in the end the court sided with the military, stating that the road would benefit the local Palestinian and Israeli population, and expropriation was thus legitimate.
• 1988 – One year after the first intifada broke out, the Israelis altered and widened some sections of the highway to prevent it from passing through Arab villages. Many of the changes once again involved expropriation of Palestinian land – including one 10-kilometer stretch from A-Tira to Beit Sira. All the changes were justified as benefiting both Palestinians and Israelis, as the route would be faster. At this time and until 2000, Palestinians and Israelis had free access to the road. Indeed, for many Palestinians 443 was the sole route to other Palestinian villages and to Ramallah.
• Second intifada, beginning in October 2000 – Following a number of terror attacks, Palestinians were increasingly banned from highway 443. Early on, the outbreak of violence led the IDF to block the access roads onto the highway, but Palestinians still tried to reach the road by driving up dirt hills. Many of those who succeeded were sanctioned by police.
• 2002 – Following the sixth fatality on or near 443 in two years, the IDF commander of the Ramallah region, Col. Gal Hirsch, unofficially declared a total ban on Palestinian traffic on the road.
• May 23, 2006 – The Association for Human Rights in Israel (ACRI) appealed to the IDF on behalf of six Palestinian villages adjacent to highway 443, arguing that the roadblocks preventing Palestinian access were illegal and should be removed.
• October 18, 2006 – The IDF responded to the ACRI’s appeal, denying that Palestinian use of the road was banned.
“IDF forces do not prevent the movement of Palestinians on the section of the highway located in Judea and Samaria but merely limit access to highway 443 from the village areas at a number of exit junctions, where gates have been erected and IDF soldiers conduct security checks as required,” the IDF wrote in its response.
• October 23, 2006 – The ACRI once again appealed to the IDF, this time requesting details as to where Palestinian access had not been limited. The IDF never responded.
• March 2007 – The ACRI petitioned the High Court of Justice on behalf of Beit Sira, Saffa, Beit Likya, Kharbata al-Misbah, Beit Ur a-Tahta and Beit Ur al-Fauka, villages all located near the highway. In its petition, the organization claimed that banning Palestinians access was illegal and urged the removal of the roadblocks on the various access roads.
• June 7, 2007 – Following a hearing, the High Court issued an injunction ordering the IDF to explain within 60 days why it had refused to remove the roadblocks and lift the Palestinian ban.
• August 28, 2007 - the IDF commander in the West Bank signed a written order officially banning Palestinian vehicles from using the road.
• September 2, 2007 – The IDF responded to the High Court order, explaining that Palestinian traffic had been banned because there was no other way to provide sufficient security for Israelis on the road. The army also argued that Palestinians in the area had alternative roads and were therefore not as seriously affected by the closure as the ACRI claimed. Furthermore, the military stated that it was in the process of building alternative “fabric of life” roads that would increase Palestinian mobility.
• November 20, 2007 – The ACRI responded, arguing that the IDF explanation was in contradiction to the claims made when the road was first built – that is, that it would service Palestinians and Israelis. The organization also argued that not only would the “fabric of life” roads further harm the Palestinians, as it would demand more expropriated land, but it was illegal because it created two separate road systems based on national origin – one for Israelis, the other for Palestinians.
• February 20, 2008 – The IDF submitted a 105-page response to the court further justifying its initial explanation.
• March 5, 2008 – The High Court held a hearing on the case.
• March 12, 2008 – The High Court issued another injunction, ordering the IDF to present within six months progress made on building the “fabric of life” roads.
• December 28, 2009 – The High Court of Justice ordered highway 443 to be open to Palestinian traffic within five months, by May 28, 2010.     – M.Z.