On April 3, 2019, the head of the Civil Administration signed an expropriation order for 401 dunams of Beit Ummar and Halhul villages lands for the construction of a 7-kilometer bypass road south of Bethlehem. This is the last procedural phase that is required before work on the ground begins, since the plan was already approved in 2012. The Palestinian landowners are expected to file a petition with the court against the expropriation, and after it has been postponed, paving work will be able to begin.
The construction of the bypass road will translate to development and construction in the settlements it services. Experience shows that once there is a convenient transportation route that shortens the length of the journey from the settlements to Israel, the settlements will grow rapidly.
Peace Now: “This expropriation is part of the government’s continued capitulation to the settlers to build bypass roads throughout the West Bank. The settlers know very well that without good roads the settlements will not be able to develop, but cynically demand they be built ‘for security reasons.’ In fact, the goal behind these roads is to expand the settlements and advance plans to annex the West Bank into Israel in order to prevent the chances of reaching a two-state solution.“
The significance of the bypass roads and the “pretext” of the security necessity
A bypass road will provide for a development route for the settlements by shortening the time of a commute, thus incentivizing Israelis to live deeper in the West Bank. Almost immediately after paving such a road there is a sharp increase in the development of the settlements alongside it. For example, in less than a decade the Lieberman Road doubled the nearby settlement population. Thus, under the pretext of security lies the demand for the development of the settlement.
It should be noted that the settlements are a major security burden on Israel. If Israeli security is such an interest to the settlers, then they would demand a halt to settlement expansion and for the government to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Only by doing so can Israel have a secure, stable and internationally recognized border, rather than having to play guard duty for hundreds of Israeli civilians (settlers) in the West Bank.
The bypass roads do not dramatically improve the security of Israeli residents, but rather increase the number of settlers, thus increasing the security burden of the settlements. Unfortunately, attacks and stone-throwing occur on bypass roads.
Expropriation of Palestinian Private Land
A bypass road requires extensive expropriation of Palestinian land. All roads are planned from the Israeli interest toward the settlements and their development. Even if in some cases the Palestinians can benefit from these roads, they are not paved according to a planning conception of the Palestinian needs. This raises the question of Israel’s legal excuse to confiscate land in order to build roads in occupied territory by claiming that the roads will also serve the protected Palestinian population. (See Peace Now-Americans for Peace Now report on bypass roads here.)