A few days ago, a tender was closed for a plan to pave the “Qalandiya Underpass” – a road designed to enable access to Israel for the settlers of the Ramallah area, without passing through the traffic jams of Jerusalem. If the project is not halted, work is expected to begin on 4 April 2021.
Transport Minister Miri Regev also issued a press release announcing yesterday that a contract had been signed with the Moriah company and that a special budget had been allocated for detailed planning for the a-Za’im Al-Azaria Road, which would allow all Ma’ale Adumim and E1 areas to be closed to Palestinians.
Another tender, published in January 2021 for the management and planning of the project to widen Road 437 between Hizma and the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone, was also closed about two weeks ago. This means that a project manager is currently being selected who is expected to prepare the detailed plans, oversee and manage the entire work process on widening the road, and that within about a year the work might begin.
This joins the announcement of the Minister of Transportation at the right-wing newspaper conference “B’Sheva” about a week ago. There, she announced, “I have allocated the budgets for the planning and doubling of Route 505, to become a wide road east to west of the Jordan Valley through the Tapuach junction through Ariel to Route 5. This will be a genuine line connecting the entire State of Israel to Judea and Samaria.”
In addition, she noted that the tender has already closed for the Huwwara bypass project. This means that work on the road construction might begin within days.
Peace Now: “The Israeli government is de facto annexing the West Bank by investing billions of shekels into roads designed to double the number of settlers to a million and even more. The Qalandiya Underpass will allow a quick trip into Israel without passing through the traffic jams of Jerusalem and will turn the settlements in the Ramallah area and the Jordan Valley into suburbs that will attract thousands of settlers to live there. The road to the Palestinians between Al-Azariya and a-Za’im will allow Israel to advance construction in E1, thus closing the door on a two-state solution.”
For more information on the road plans in the West Bank, see the “Highway to Annexation” report by Breaking the Silence.
Peace Now has learned that in December a tender was published for the construction of the Qalandiya Underpass, which is planned to pass under the Qalandiya checkpoint and allow Israeli vehicles to travel from the settlements in the Ramallah area, the Jordan Valley and northeast, into Israel without traffic jams or traffic lights.
It should be noted that in recent months, the planning process for a new road, known as Road 45 or the “Quarries Road”, is underway to connect the Ramallah bypass road near the Kochav Ya’akov settlement, and the Qalandiya checkpoint has been progressing. In June 2020, the road plan (Plan No. 926/1), was approved for deposit in the Higher Planning Council of the Civil Administration, and was published for objections in October 2020. The road is intended to bypass the Palestinian settlements of Jaba’ and A-Ram, and allow settlers to travel quickly and safely without passing Palestinian homes.
The two roads together will make all the settlements east of Jerusalem and Ramallah, as well as the settlements in the Jordan Valley and along Road 60 towards Nablus much more attractive for Israelis. Travel from the settlements to work in Israel will be significantly shortened without passing through Jerusalem’s traffic jams. Past experience shows that once a bypass road is paved, the settlements along it grow rapidly. This happened, for example, with the Bethlehem bypass road to the east (Lieberman Road), which in less than a decade of opening to traffic doubled the number of residents in the settlements along it.
In the map above you can see the route of Road 437 (“Ramallah Underpass”) between Hizma and the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone, which is intended for upgrading and adding lanes. A tender for the selection of the project manager for the road upgrade has been published recently, and this means that it is estimated that the work can begin in about a year.
Moriah Company and the tender for the construction of the Qalandiya Underpass
The Ministry of Transportation has hired the services of the Moriah company for the purpose of constructing many roads in the Jerusalem area. Moriah is a public company owned by the Jerusalem Municipality that carries out large-scale infrastructure projects for the Ministry of Transportation and for the Jerusalem Municipality. In recent years, the company constructed many roads in the West Bank, including: doubling the Tunnels Road, the Eastern Ring Road, the French Hill Tunnel and more.
As part of the work on the Qalandiya Underpass, Moriah prepared a detailed plan, and in December 2020 issued a tender for the selection of the contractor to carry out the works. The tender closed a few days ago and a contractor is expected to be selected in the coming days. According to the tender documents, the works are expected to begin on 4 April 2021. Similarly, Moriah has issued a tender to hire a project manager to upgrade Road 437. The selected manager will prepare the planning and tenders for implementation – then the tenders will be published and work will begin.
Announcement by the Minister of Transportation on the promotion of the a-Zaim road to Azaria
Transport Minister Miri Regev issued a press release yesterday, according to which the Ministry of Transportation signed a contract with the Moriah company to pave the road between a-Za’im and Al-Azariya (also known as the “Fabric of Life Road”, or “The Sovereignty Road”), designed to enable the annexation of Ma’ale Adumim and construction in E1.
The road is intended to divert Palestinian traffic, which today passes near the Ma’ale Adumim settlement, to a bypass road so that the entire area of Ma’ale Adumim, about 100,000 dunams in the heart of the West Bank (about 2% of the West Bank), can be closed to Palestinians.
In the announcement by the Minister of Transportation, the road is presented as a road intended to alleviate traffic congestion, both for the settlers and for the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, the wording of a previous announcement by the mayor of Ma’ale Adumim is a rare admission of the separation policy (not to mention apartheid) behind the plan and Israel’s real intention to take from the Palestinians a central area in the heart of the West Bank:
In terms of changes in the area, the announcement reads that the road “will close the entrance to el-Azariya from the direction of the city [Ma’ale Adumim], promote the movement of the security barrier between us and el-Azariya and allow the a-Za’im checkpoint to be moved in the direction of Mishor Adumim.” – That is, Ma’ale Adumim will be physically separated from the Palestinian space by a barrier, and thus there will no longer be a need for the checkpoint that is currently between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel.
The checkpoint will pass east so that the Israeli residents of Ma’ale Adumim will not have to pass through the checkpoint every day on their way to Jerusalem, and that the Palestinians will not have access to the area between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim, and even east of it.
“This will be a separate road for Palestinians in the E1 area, the purpose of which is to separate the transportation connection between the Palestinian and Israeli populations in the area so that Palestinian vehicles will be allowed to pass without entering the Ma’ale Adumim bloc, near Jewish communities.” – That is, the purpose of the road is to separate the Palestinian traffic that will travel on one road, and the Israelis and the “Jewish communities” that will travel on other roads in a separate area. The Palestinians will not even be able to pass within the so-called Adumim bloc.
The announcement goes on to explain the political implications of the road: “At the political level, the road will connect Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim and enable construction in the Jewish settlements in the E1 area.”