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A Road That Divides A Nation

A Road That Divides A Nation

In most countries, a new highway is just a stretch of asphalt. In Israel, a new highway is a source of national debate.

Israel is building a unique four-lane highway through the West Bank, east of Jerusalem — two lanes are for Israelis, two for Palestinians.

Separated by a tall wall of concrete that looks like Jerusalem stone, the nearly completed road will keep the nationalities separate from each other, allowing Palestinians to travel through Israeli-held land with few exits along the way.

The highway, according to its planners, is designed to foster the building of more Israeli settlements around East Jerusalem, a largely Arab area. “The Americans demanded from [then-Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon contiguity for a Palestinian state,” said Shaul Arieli, a map specialist who took part in the 2000 Camp David negotiations. “This road was Sharon’s answer, to build a road for Palestinians between Ramallah and Bethlehem but not to Jerusalem. This was how to connect the West Bank while keeping Jerusalem united and not giving Palestinians blanket permission to enter East Jerusalem.”

The Israeli side of the road includes interchanges that permit turns onto access roads; Palestinians with Israeli identity cards or special permits for Jerusalem will be able to use the Israeli side.

Lone cars, above, drive along the highway. A construction worker, top, puts some finishing touches on the road near Ramallah.

Another Jerusalem highway made headlines the other day.

Road 9 cuts through a valley near the northern entrance to Jerusalem, connecting from the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway to Jerusalem’s Begin Highway.

This road just saves traveling time.

Road 9 is just a stretch of asphalt.

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