This week, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that Palestinians in the West Bank must be able to use Highway 443, which connects the city of Modi'in (and several other smaller communities) to Jerusalem. Although Modi'in is in Israel proper, the highway, which runs along an ancient route (while constructing the highway, builders found a tomb containing ossuaries inscribed with the name Hashmonaim) described in a multitude of a old texts, cuts through a corner of the West Bank.
Admittedly, local Arabs could make use of the 443 for quick access to a number of Arab villages adjacent to the highway. Unfortunately for them, the IDF deemed it necessary to disallow vehicles without Israeli plates from using the road after a series of shootings that killed six people during the second Intifada. To prevent access, the army placed concrete barriers where the highway meets village access roads. Since the closure, Palestinians have been required to leave their vehicles behind these barriers and walk up to the highway so they can catch rides, or walk to nearby villages (or use alternate roads.)
As the Supreme Court has decided, this situation has not been fair, and I'm admittedly conflicted on the subject. There's no question that denying anyone the use of this road has been as infringement of human rights; but as human rights go, nothing can be more important than the protection of human lives. I recognize the obvious inconvenience of my Arab neighbours; but, I must reconcile their inconvenience with the safety of my friends, and more importantly my wife who travels this road several times a week.
It's a complex issue, and the Supreme Court, recognizing the security needs of travellers, has postponed implementation of the decision for five months, so that the IDF can find another solution.
Yaacov Lazowick has written a useful backgrounder, which provides historical context and describes some of the political aspects of the problem.
Jerusalem Post Editorial: The Meaning of 443,
January 1, 2010
Israel's Open Road, National Post Editorial
Monday, January 04, 2010