Mon, Dec 06, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Israel plans West Bank `apartheid' network of roads

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

The message has been consistent: Israel believes the US-backed road-map is the way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

It has been repeated by Ariel Sharon and by ministers, yet now government papers suggest that Israel intends to bypass the peace plan, creating a Palestinian state of enclaves, surrounded by walls and linked by tunnels and special roads.

Israel has released plans for the upgrade of roads and construction of 16 tunnels which would create an "apartheid" road network for Palestinians in the West Bank.

Existing roads would be reserved for Jews, linking their settlements to each other and to Israel. The plans came to light when Giora Eiland, Israel's director of national security, requested international funding for the project.

At a meeting with World Bank officials, he told them the roads would maximize freedom of movement for Palestinians without compromising security for Jewish settlers.

Eiland asked for an estimated ?110 million, which would come from taxpayers in Europe, the US and Japan.

The international community unanimously rejected the request, stating they could not finance a project not supported by the Palestinian Authority.

The plans would force Palestinians into circuitous travelling routes.

According to Jan de Jong, a Dutch geographer retained by the PLO Negotiations Support Unit, a journey from Tulkarem to Nablus, which would take 40 minutes without checkpoints, would take 73 minutes under the new system.

Ghassan Khatib, the Palestinian planning minister, said the proposals were at odds with everything the international community had proposed for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Two communities living under different laws and regulations with different standards of living and road networks: this is what apartheid is all about," Khatib said.

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