Arab Community Heads Join Demand for New Yesha Roads

YERUSHALAYIM -
A new lighted sign saying “Welcome to Gush Etzion” at the Gush Junction. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

Residents and community leaders in Yehudah and Shomron have in recent weeks protested over the need for more government funding for expanding roads and infrastructure in the region, and they have received surprising support from leaders of Arab communities, according to Yediot Acharonot. Arab community leaders in Gush Etzion have contacted the heads of Jewish communities to express their support for the construction of new roads.

The report quoted one Arab community leader as saying that “there is one narrow road for those traveling to several large villages that are always seriously crowded. We have a lot of people who need to get to Yerushalayim, as they work in places like Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital, and they all have to travel that road.” Between the traffic jams and the security checks, “a Palestinian who wants to get to work on time at 8 or 9 has to get up at 5 in the morning. If they are late they may not get there until 11 a.m.”

Another community leader was quoted as saying that the last time a road was paved in his village was decades ago, “and that was a road for use by donkeys transporting supplies to and from the fields. Today we have buses and tractor-trailers. The road cannot handle the traffic. It needs to be widened and improved.”

Leaders of communities in Yehudah and Shomron on Friday announced that they were shutting down a protest tent that had been set up two weeks before, where community heads and members of families who have lost loved ones in terror attacks were demanding funds for road and infrastructure improvement in Judea and Samaria.

The protest was called off after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu transferred NIS 200 million for the construction of roads in Yehudah and Shomron, a “down payment” on an NIS 800 million funding program that would be included in the 2019 budget.

Among the projects that the funding will cover will be the infamous “road to nowhere,” the Western Binyamin Bypass Road which was nearly completed over a decade ago, and has been languishing unfinished since then. The road, which cost NIS 250 million to build, was begun in 2006, but halted several years later when Ehud Barak became Defense Minister, with just two kilometers left unpaved. Since then, the other 10 kilometers of the road have gone unused.

The work was halted to divert resources to the construction of the security fence in the area, but local officials said that it was high time that it be completed. PM Netanyahu specifically promised in remarks earlier this week that the money would be used in part to complete that road.