Netanyahu opens new east Jerusalem road

Peace Now says infrastructure deepens Israel’s hold on area that should be part of Palestinian state.

Netanyahu with Barkat370 (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Netanyahu with Barkat370
(photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ceremoniously opened a new road in east Jerusalem on Sunday that eased traffic congestion but angered the Palestinians who oppose all Israeli activity over the pre-1967 lines.
The completion of the NIS 180 million project for 400 meters of Highway 20 asphalt allows residents of the Jewish east Jerusalem neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neveh Ya’acov to link up with Route 443 without traveling through French Hill and clogging up its roads.
Israeli Arabs living in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina will similarly be able to scoot more easily onto Route 443.
The road’s interchange was named for Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, who passed away on April 30 last year at age 102.
Early in the morning, Netanyahu stood there as he inaugurated the road along with Transportation Minister Israel Katz and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.
“We are working continuously and systematically to link Jerusalem with itself and to the other parts of the country, because Zion is important to us and it was important to my father,” said Netanyahu.
“He wasn’t named ‘Benzion’ for nothing. It says everything – Benzion, literally ‘Son of Zion,’” Netanyahu said.
Fatah spokesman Husam Zomlot attacked the opening of the road and said it showed that Israel was not serious about a two-state solution.
“It is just another proof that Mr. Netanyahu has only one plan for one state – and that is the state for the settlers,” Zomlot said.
“It is another proof that his entire agenda is that of further colonization and providing all the services possible for the settlers,” Zomlot said.
“The position of my movement, the leading party of the PLO, is that there shall be no peace and no political settlement without east Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state,” Zomlot said.
But Netanyahu has always insisted that a united Jerusalem will remain under Israeli sovereignty in any twostate solution.
Speaking on Sunday morning at the road, he said that his father had taught him “that our state is a deposit for the generations of Jews who dreamt and prayed and fought and sacrificed so that we might return to our land and renew in it our independence.
“He taught me about the enormous responsibility that we have to ensure the security of the State of Israel and build up its future. This heritage needs to unite us all every day, and so it does,” Netanyahu said.
Katz said the new road was part of an ongoing effort to improve access to the capital, which included an upgrade to Route 1 and plans for a highspeed rail line to Jerusalem.
“The opening of Highway 20 and the Benzion interchange will ease traffic congestion in northern Jerusalem and allow hundreds of thousands of visitors and tourists additional access that is easy and quick,” Barkat said.
But Hagit Ofran of Peace Now said that a small portion of Highway 20 goes through the West Bank, as it leaves Jerusalem’s municipal border and links to Route 443, which also cuts through the West Bank before linking with the major artery to Tel Aviv.
But, she said, the main issue was that such infrastructure deepens Israel’s hold on an area that should be part of a Palestinian state and makes it more difficult to come to a two-state solution.
The opening of the road comes amidst a renewed push by the United States to resume direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, negotiations which have been largely frozen since December 2008.