Government Announces Fast-Tracking of Planning and Execution for Gush Talmonim Road – Route 443

A decision with broad implications for the entire area from the west to Ramallah.

Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and Transportation Minister Miri Regev announced on Friday (March 22, 2024) the fast-tracking of the planning and implementation of a road connecting Gush Talmonim to Route 443. The road is intended to shorten the journey to Jerusalem, passing through Palestinian lands and areas of Palestinian villages where there is currently no settler presence. Settlers plan for the road to facilitate the expansion of the population in the area by tens of thousands of settlers.

Peace Now: “The Gush Talmonim Road – Route 443 is an extremely dangerous project for the area west to Ramallah. Its construction will create a wide and densely populated settlement bloc, exacerbating friction between settlers and Palestinians and further complicating a political solution. The road will not reduce violence in the area but rather escalate it to new heights. The political solution lies not in such illogical roads but in a political horizon and hope for both peoples.”

The Gush Talmonim settlements include Talmon, Dolev, Nahliel, Kerem Reim, Nerya, Haresha, Halamish, and Zayit Ra’anan. Together, these settlements house about 9,500 settlers. The settlements are located northwest of Ramallah, between the Palestinian villages of Al-Mazra’a al-Qibliya, Beitillu, Deir Ammar, and Ras Karkar. Smotrich and Regev’s announcement came after the terror attack near Dolev on the same day.

The significance of the road (935):

1) Significantly shorten the route from Jerusalem to the settlements. Instead of a journey of about 37 km on a winding road for about an hour, through Modi’in Illit and traffic jams in the Modi’in area, the route will be shortened to about 21 km only on a relatively fast highway connecting to Route 443 near the village of ‘Beit Ur al-Fauqa.

2) Almost the entire planned route is on private Palestinian land, directly leading to the confiscation of hundreds of dunams and severely affecting Palestinians’ ability to access undeveloped land.

3) Introduction of Israeli presence into an area where Israelis currently do not reside. – The road will intersect the main road from Ramallah westward between the villages of Deir Ibzi’ and Ein Arik.

4) Prevents the westward expansion of the city of Ramallah and the villages towards it.

5) Requires renewed security assessments by the IDF. To secure the road, the IDF will need to prepare to defend an entire new area. In the past, due to security concerns, the construction of the road’s infrastructure was halted.

6) Significant Impact on the number of settlers living in the area. The road is not just a transportation improvement but a key to the development of settlements in the area. Settlers are discussing a future plan to establish a large ultra-Orthodox settlement in Nahliel (north of Dolev) for tens of thousands of residents. In order to implement such a plan, a suitable transportation route is needed. (A plan that is currently shelved and not yet advanced.)

Planning status

Previous attempts were made to advance the road. In the early 2000s, a small portion of it was built near Deir Ibzi’. Later, it was decided to freeze its construction due to opposition from the security establishment and planning difficulties such as the need to cross mountain ridges and a major traffic artery to Ramallah. In 2020, when Smotrich was the Transportation Minister, work began on detailed planning for the road. As far as is known to Peace Now, work on the plan has not progressed beyond detailed planning, and it is not included in the Ministry of Transportation’s five-year plan for the years 2023 to 2027.

The announcement from Friday, March 22, 2024, means that Minister Regev and Minister Smotrich are seeking to incorporate the promotion of the road into the work plans of the Ministry of Transportation and allocate budgets for it. If indeed this happens, in a year or two, they may be able to start development work on the road.