Bypassing for safety

On infrastructure in the West Bank.

The West Bank  (photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
The West Bank
(photo credit: RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS)
At its weekly Sunday meeting the cabinet is expected to green-light Prime Minister Benjamin’s announced plan to increase security on roads in the disputed territories by a massive, NIS 800 million infrastructure investment. The move comes amid an ongoing protest by survivors of terrorist attacks who are demanding the right to feel safe while en route to their homes.
The investment in road safety in Judea and Samaria would apparently include a number of new bypass roads to avoid Palestinian towns and villages, and thereby reduce the number of convenient venues for the terrorist ambushes that have killed so many innocent civilians near the terrorists’ own homes, to which they return.
Such an initiative, if such a budget can indeed be found and approved, would constitute a win-win situation for both Israelis and Palestinians, at the very least resulting in a much-needed reduction in friction. Ultimately, people’s lives are on the line on both sides of the former Green Line.
All people deserve the better security of good road infrastructure, the appalling lack of which for decades many critics have attributed to the limited budgets available being diverted to the expansion of settlements. Whatever the eventual accommodation with our Palestinian neighbors shall be, in the interim all deserve better road safety on better roads.
Good planning will be essential to the success of this valuable project, although some recent road improvements in the West Bank place this in some doubt. An egregious example exists in the approach to the Gilo-side entrance to the Jerusalem-Etzion Bloc tunnel on the first bypass road, the one that avoids Bethlehem.
Today, following the heralded extension of the intracity roadway known as Begin Boulevard, a new two-lane highway abruptly must merge with the existing two-lane road.
Other doubts about the infrastructure initiative have been raised by residents of the West Bank themselves, some of whom have questioned the prime minister’s credibility. This is despite the fact that Netanyahu and his bureau chief, Yoav Horowitz, met with Yesha Council head Avi Ro’eh and the head of Amana, Ze’ev Hever, last week and promised them the money would be allotted in the 2018 state budget.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who has led the road safety campaign, on Tuesday set up a protest tent on the sidewalk opposite Netanyahu’s official Jerusalem residence.
“Netanyahu is once again making empty promises, just as he does after every terrorist attack,” Dagan told reporters.
“We will continue to sit here on the sidewalk outside of Netanyahu’s residence until his words have been translated into real actions.”
At the protest tent widow Hadas Mizrahi recalled hearing similar promises after her husband was shot to death by terrorists on a West Bank road three-and-a-half years ago. “More people have been killed, but nothing has happened,” she said.
The bypass roads are part of a NIS 3 billion infrastructure plan under consideration by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. The improvements, like better roads, would benefit everyone, Jews and Arabs alike. Better cellular coverage ensures faster emergency response and better lighting simply makes the roads more visible for all drivers.
Liberman’s comprehensive security package would be implemented starting only in 2019, due to the complexities involved. “These things don’t happen overnight, but this security package is the first all-inclusive one that will address a broad range of needs for residents in Judea and Samaria,” he told reporters last week at the construction site of Amihai, a new settlement for evacuees from the illegal Amona settlement.
A Defense Ministry spokesman said a separate budget would be earmarked for Netanyahu’s bypass roads, while Liberman’s plan includes security cameras, fences and other security enhancements.
In advance of the cabinet meeting, Dagan assembled a group of right-wing MKs who allegedly would refuse to vote with the coalition unless the cabinet passed the NIS 800m. budget pledged by Netanyahu.
Such a beneficial, nonpartisan initiative that would bring greater safety to all the country’s residents should not be the object of another bid at the usual political blackmail. The greater good should be good enough.