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Palestinan road to nowhere

The Israeli Army shut Highway 443 for security. A court reopened it for equality.

When the Second Intifada broke out, Highway 443 became the backdrop for gory drive-by shootings, stonings, Molotov cocktails and car bombs. One victim was Ronen Landau, 17, who was shot in the liver as his father drove him from downtown Jerusalem to their home in the Givat Zeev settlement on a balmy July evening in 2001. The army banned all Palestinians from the road the following year.

Modi’in spokesman Elad Shimonovich said that ban was direly needed.

“At night the road was nearly empty, and people had to use Highway 1,” said Shimonovich. As a 75,000-resident bedroom community, Modi’in relies on Highway 443 to connect to jobs in the nation’s capital.

Following the ruling, right-wing Knesset members announced they would propose legislation to annex Highway 443 to bypass the ruling.

Palestinian urban planner Rami Nasrallah, who works in Jerusalem and Ramallah, said the closed road created two parallel transport networks.

“One is fast, for settlers,” Nasrallah said, while the other “goes through the center of the villages, and it makes it impossible to guarantee access between towns and villages in the West Bank.”

Reopening the road will re-link West Bank villages to Ramallah; however, Jerusalem remains off-limits to Palestinians without residency permits in the capital.

In the weeks running up to the court decision, ACRI and the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem mounted a public awareness campaign using an online computer game called “How democratic are we?” Players decide whether to build the road and whether to block Palestinians from driving on it.

“It’s a weird situation,” said Nasrallah, who works in Ramallah and Jerusalem. “The whole area of the West Bank is supposed to be under the Palestinian Authority… The question is how this will be used when there is a Palestinian state.”

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