Road network lays Israeli state over Palestinian living space

May 13, 2013
Sarah Benton

In this posting: report from Ha’aretz, 1); report from JPost 2); UPDATE Richard Falk calls for halt to invasive highway, 3); gives advice on why to buy in Pisgat Ze’ev 4).

Map of East Jerusalem; the new Netanyahu road will connect Pisgat Ze’ev to Neve Ya’akov in the Jewish settlement (blue) to the highway further north.

Paving the way to an indivisible Jerusalem

A new highway connecting Jewish neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem is the latest addition to a network of roads making a future division of the city increasingly unlikely.

By Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz
May 10, 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last Sunday joined Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to dedicate Route 20, a highway that connects Jewish neighborhoods in northern Jerusalem and happens to have an interchange named after the prime minister’s father, historian Benzion Netanyahu.

“We are working unceasingly, systematically, to link Jerusalem to itself,” the prime minister declared.

The road may turn out to be the most important legacy of both generations of Netanyahus in that, as part of the road network encompassing Jerusalem, it could be the nail in the coffin for plans to re-divide the capital and attach its Arab areas to a future Palestinian state.

According to retired Israel Defense Forces Col. Shaul Arieli of the Council for Peace and Security, the construction of the highway constitutes a break with a longstanding policy that left the door open to the re-division of Jerusalem.

“Up to now, the development of Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem was based on maintaining and separating Jewish and Palestinian contiguity,” said Arieli, who was a drafter of the Geneva Initiative, an unofficial plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. “In Jerusalem, there are two separate cities each of which has had territorial contiguity. That was the mosaic concept of [late Jerusalem Mayor] Teddy Kollek – that the Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods would be next to each other but not inside each other. This principle was breached by the Israeli transportation network, which will make separation very difficult.”

Route 20 was designed to alleviate severe traffic congestion around Jerusalem’s French Hill neighborhood, but it is also the latest project to make re-division of the city less practicable. The short stretch of highway crosses Jerusalem’s Arab Beit Hanina neighborhood to connect the northern Jewish neighborhoods of Pisgat Ze’ev and Neveh Yaakov. Residents of Jewish settlements in the northern West Bank will also benefit from the access the highway provides from the northern Jerusalem neighborhoods to the center of the capital via the Begin Highway.

Actually, the most prominent highway project that would complicate the city’s re-division is the route through the southern Arab neighborhood of Beit Safafa. The road is designed to serve residents of the Jewish Gilo neighborhood and the Gush Etzion bloc of settlements south of the city. Another road is slated to bisect the Arab Beit Hanina neighborhood to connect the Jewish Ramat Shlomo neighborhood with Route 20. Prior to these recent highway plans, few if any major roads connecting Jerusalem’s Jewish neighborhoods went through neighborhoods with Arab populations.

The first real break with the policy came in the 1990s, when small numbers of Jews began to move into entirely Arab neighborhoods, including Silwan, Ras-al-Amud and Jabel Mukaber, though their numbers have remained relatively small.

According to Arieli, it is hard to overstate the importance of the new roads in undermining the prospect of the re-division of the city and the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. All of the proposed peace plans, he said, including the Geneva Initiative and proposals that came out of the United States-brokered summits at Annapolis and Camp David, have provided for the division of Jerusalem and the transfer of control of portions of the city to a Palestinian state.

“Is there anyone who really believes there is a chance for a permanent agreement [with the Palestinians] without a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem?” Arieli asked.

Arieli’s views are echoed by Danny Seidemann, an expert on Jerusalem’s demography and residential patterns. “I think the purpose of these highways is to clearly integrate the [Jewish] settlement blocs into the national highway network of Israel and thereby place East Jerusalem and the settlement blocs within Israel’s de facto borders,” he said.

Referring to the West Bank settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, east of Jerusalem, Seidemann said, “The significance of Route 20 is that someone departing from the center of Tel Aviv would get to Ma’aleh Adumim more quickly than he would to my [Jerusalem] neighborhood of Arnona.”

Sari Kronish of the Israeli human rights group Bimkom said that although it happens that Route 20 will serve residents of Beit Safafa, it clearly was not designed with them in mind.

“If they were planning for the benefit of the Palestinian residents, then these highways have no internal logic. The highway doesn’t begin within a Palestinian commercial center and end in a Palestinian neighborhood,” she said.

A resident of East Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa overlooking the highway construction works. Photo by Emil Salman for Ha’aretz

Netanyahu opens new east Jerusalem road

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

By Tovah Lazaroff, JPost
May 06, 2013

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.

UN calls to nix settler highway in East Jerusalem

By Alternative Center
May 14, 2013

United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk is calling for an immediate halt to construction of a settlement highway through the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Beit Safafa, urging the Israeli government to stop the highway which, if completed, would divide Beit Safafa into two and ruin the livelihoods of the 9,300 Palestinian residents.

Construction of the six-lane highway through East Jerusalem’s Beit Safafa continues despite pending legal cases (Photo: Lea Frehse, AIC)

“The projected six-lane highway extending 1.5km will do irreparable damage to the community, cutting off local roads and blocking access to kindergartens, schools, health clinics, offices, and places of worship,” warned Professor Falk, the independent expert designated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

The Special Rapporteur noted that the highway purpose is to annex the Gush Etzion settlement bloc and pave the way for further expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements around East Jerusalem. “It will consolidate the highway network from Gush Etzion settlement in the southern West Bank through West and East Jerusalem, leading to the Ma’ale Adumim settlement bloc and the E1 area,” he said.

“The residents of Beit Safafa, who were not consulted at any stage of the planning, will be placed in an absurd situation where places within their own community – previously accessible within ten minutes’ walk – would require travel by car on bypass roads and a bridge,” he said.

Beit Safafa residents have petitioned Israel’s judicial system against the highway, and have launched demonstrations and protests near the construction site and outside the Jerusalem municipality and Israeli Knesset.

The Special Rapportuer noted that the road project, which began in September 2012, was challenged in the Jerusalem District Court last December, but the residents’ petition to stop construction was rejected. An appeal filed with the Israeli High Court against the District Court’s decision was also rejected in March 2013. While courts have suspended a land confiscation order pending a final ruling by Israel’s High Court, scheduled for 26 June 2013, the court rejected an appeal by Beit Safafa residents to halt highway construction until the High Court hearing.

Pisgat Ze’ev

Jerusalem Attractions,  Neighborhoods in Jerusalem

From Go Tourism

Pisgat Ze’evOn the way to Neve Yaakov, you’ll pass through Pisgat Ze’ev, the largest neighborhood in Jerusalem. With over 50,000 residents, Pisgat Ze’ev is a relatively new and popular destination for families and young couples looking to escape the skyrocketing property prices elsewhere in Jerusalem. But with a new development in progress, Pisgat Ze’ev may well become the next hot location for real estate hunters in Jerusalem.

Named for the early 20th century Zionist activist Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Pisgat Ze’ev was founded in 1982. The neighborhood was established to create a link between the Jerusalem center and the outlying neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, which was isolated at the time. Pisgat Ze’ev is located near several Arab villages and the neighborhood of Shuafat.

Perhaps due to the ideology of its namesake, many of the central streets in Pisgat Ze’ev are named for Israeli army units circa the 1948 and 1967 wars.

In ancient times, the region where Pisgat Ze’ev is now located was once a major source of oil and wine for use in the Temple in Jerusalem.

This neighborhood is now home to many Jewish families with children, and consequently has many kindergartens, elementary schools and a few high schools. The population is a mix of religious and secular Jews, with a significant number of synagogues throughout the neighborhood. A small but increasing number of Arabs have been moving to Pisgat Ze’ev, as well.

In 2009, a luxury building project in Pisgat Ze’ev was approved that has already attracted the interest of several buyers. The project has also attracted controversy, since Pisgat Ze’ev, despite being part of metro Jerusalem, lies beyond the 1967 Green Line and is classified internationally as a settlement. But the popularity of the project indicates an ongoing phenomenon in Jerusalem: local buyers are looking to move away from the city center, going instead where prices are more affordable.

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