In recent weeks, work has begun on paving the Qalandiya Underpass designed to allow the doubling of dozens of settlements through the shortening the route between them and Israel. The works has started in the area of the military facility near the checkpoint far from the public eye, but recently a sign was posted in the area announcing the works. Qalandiya Underpass is planned to pass under the Qalandiya checkpoint and allow settlers to travel quickly from the West Bank into Israel without traffic lights, and without passing through Jerusalem’s traffic jams. The road, like all roads connecting between the West Bank and Israel, will serve the settlers as well as Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, however it is designed to shorten the commuting time for the settlements in the area of Ramallah and north of it, as well as the settlements of the Jordan Valley. Past experience shows that paving such a road makes the settlements in its vicinity much more attractive to Israelis, and leads to rapid growth, as happened in the case of the Bethlehem bypass road from the east (“Lieberman Road”) which doubled the number of settlers in less than a decade.
Peace Now: The new government turns out to be continuing the policy of de facto annexation. Qalandiya Underpass is one of the most significant roads in the road revolution which the previous government had begun, with an investment of billions, designed to double the number of settlers to a million and even more. We would like to remind the Minister of Transportation, Merav Michaeli, that roads are the key to the development of the settlements and their lifeline. Without roads the settlements cannot develop. Michaeli, who declares her support for a two-state solution, must not allow a move that could block the possibility to reach such a solution.
In December 2020, a tender for the construction of the Qalandiya Underpass was published by the Moriah company, which received the project management from the Ministry of Transportation. Although the project had begun under the Netanyahu government, it is important to emphasize that the current government has full authority to stop the project from being implemented, even though the tenders were published and contractors were chosen to carry out the works. In this context, it should be noted that the Rabin government had frozen construction in the settlements and even stopped works that began on the ground and, when necessary, compensated the contractors for the investment. The Minister of Transport and the Minister of Defense could have ordered the cessation of the project and prevented its construction. In fact they can still stop the works, which are now only in their beginning and are expected to last about two and a half years.
In addition to the large financial outlay of paving an underpass under the Qalandiya checkpoint, the project also has a significant security cost, and will require the construction of an additional checkpoint, with all the risks and costs involved, to prevent Palestinians from entering Israel without control via the new road.
In parallel to the start of work on the Qalandiya Underpass, the government continues to promote a plan to pave a new road that will connect to the Qalandiya Underpass. In June 2021, plan No. 926/1 for a new road was deposited for public review and objections. The planned road, known as Road 45 or the “Quarries Road”, is intended to connect the Ramallah bypass road near the Kochav Ya’akov settlement with the Qalandiya underpass. The plan was approved for deposit in June 2020 and even published for deposit, but following objections filed by Palestinians pointing to failures in the planning process, the Higher Planning Council was forced to re-deposit the plan. The deadline for filing objections is due to end these days. The road is intended to bypass the Palestinian localities of Jaba’ and a-Ram, and to allow settlers a quick and safe ride without passing near 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 settlements for Israelis. Travel from the settlements to work in Israel will be significantly shortened without passing through Jerusalem’s traffic jams.
For more on the road revolution in the settlements – April 2021 – see here