Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has promised to provide NIS 800 million for the construction and completion of bypass roads in Yehudah and Shomron, the government said Wednesday. Netanyahu met Wednesday with the heads of local and regional authorities in Yehudah and Shomron, and promised that the money would be included in the soon-to-be-completed 2018/19 state budget. Netanyahu told the officials that he had “worked extensively in recent months” to push the allocation through.
Despite the announcement, heads of towns in the region, along with members of families who have lost loved ones to terror attacks, continued their presence in protest tents outside the Prime Minister’s Office. The group has been there since Sunday, led by Beit Aryeh Mayor Avi Naim and Shomron Council head Yossi Dagan. The impetus to the protest was a lawsuit filed by the two at the High Court demanding the completion of a road connecting the western Shomron town of Beit Aryeh and other towns in the area to avoid driving thorough several Arab villages.
The Western Binyamin Bypass Road was nearly completed over a decade ago, and has been languishing 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.
Beit Aryeh Mayor Avi Naim said in remarks attached to the lawsuit that “it is not logical that Israel would not complete the road that would have strategic importance for thousands of drivers daily. Most of it is completed, but a small part remains unfinished. There is no legal reason for the holdup, as the entire road passes through areas that have been approved for construction and development. Despite our many requests to those responsible, and the promises that the work would be completed, nothing has happened.”
According to Dagan, the failure to complete the road “is another example of how the government ignores the needs of residents of Yehudah and Shomron. The government expends millions on these projects and then stops in the middle, and this harms both the state budget and residents. Proper roads in Yehudah and Shomron are a requirement for security and safety. This lawsuit is a part of our struggle for bypass roads for residents of Israeli towns in Yehudah and Shomron. We will not stop until we see tractors at work,” he added.
The protesters were visited Wednesday by government Minister Chaim Katz, who, commenting on the long delay in finishing that and other promised bypass roads, said, “I do not believe that the Prime Minister is not interested in providing security in Yehudah and Shomron. I am positive he does want security. With that, the bottom line is that there are not enough bypass roads, and we in the Likud do not want to have to keep making excuses for that. We want to be with the winners, which is why I am here with the protesters.”