The Defense Ministry has green-lighted planning for what it called a “sovereignty road” that would allow Palestinian traffic to bypass Israeli settlements in the E1 area of the West Bank.
“We’re applying sovereignty in deeds, not words,” Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday, as he made a subtle dig at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for not having already annexed all of the West Bank settlements, including the area outside of Jerusalem where the road is located.
As part of his re-election campaign, Netanyahu last month agreed to advance plans for 3,500 new homes in an unbuilt area of the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement, known as E1.
To make the project tenable for area Palestinians, roads are needed that would allow them to bypass that area, so that they could have continuous travel between their communities.
The overall transportation project has been called the “fabric of life” road.
Bennett has now pushed forward with a road that would link the Palestinian village of Azzim outside of Jerusalem with the neighboring villages and towns of Anata, Hizme and A-Ram.
In his announcement to the media, the defense minister explained that this would be a “separate road" for Palestinians in the E1 area, which would allow for vehicles with Palestinian license plates to move on a separate route from those with Israeli license plates, so that they would not have to cross inside the Ma’aleh Adumim bloc.
Bennett said that, “Today we are giving a green light to the sovereignty road and embarking on the process of connecting Jerusalem with Ma'aleh Adumim. The project will improve the quality of life for the residents in the area, avoid unnecessary friction with the Palestinian population and, most importantly, allow for continued settlement construction.”
Peace Now said it was disingenuous for the Defense Ministry to speak of improving life for the Palestinians when its sole concern was settlement expansion.
Palestinians and the international community have opposed the E1 project. They have argued that it destroys any possibility of a contiguous Palestinian state and thus makes such a state untenable.
Peace Now similarly said that the road project was "bad for Israel" because it eliminated the possibility of a two-state resolution to the conflict.