The Transportation Ministry warns that if drivers taking Route 443 are not protected, following a High Court ruling
that the road should be opened to Palestinian traffic, Highway 1 from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will suffer from serious traffic jams.
"There is a fear that Highway 1 will collapse completely," ministry representative Yishai Talor told a subcommittee of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee during a Sunday discussion attended by Knesset members and army representatives.
"If the drivers don't feel safe on the road, their alternative will be Highway 1. And truck drivers, if they feel uncomfortable for security reasons, we will have to deal with them on Highway 1," explained Talor.
"In the rush hour, not everyone working in Jerusalem will be able to reach the city. We checked what would happen if 20% of all vehicles move to Highway 1 due to a security fear. The meaning is a complete collapse of Highway 1."
Knesset Member Nissim Ze'ev (Shas)
agreed, noting that "if 20-30% of the volume of traffic moves from 443 to Highway 1, it will simply be unbearable." Modiin Mayor Haim Bibas said that Highway 1 has no capacity."
An Israel Defense Forces representative said that "our mission is to find a way to ensure joint Israeli-Palestinian traffic and guarantee the level of security." According to the army representative, "We have yet to discuss all the implications. This ruling has to be studied thoroughly."
The officer, Brigadier-General Almoz of the Central Command, added that "physical maintenance of the route in the long run is a long-term security move which must be looked into." He said that "the name of the game is the level of security checks, how we will allow it and which activities we will conduct on the route and on the Palestinian route so as not to hurt the life fabric, on the one hand, but hold proper security checks, on the other hand."
Asked whether the army would be able to prepare within five months, as stated by the High Court judges, Brigadier-General Almoz replied, "It's hard to tell right now. This entails a thorough examination of the implications."
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima)
said that the State must look for a proper alternative. According to the MK, "Those who don’t understand the strategic importance of Route 443 and put it under a security banner only, are like a person who can only see with one eye. There are many aspects to this matter."
The discussed road segment was closed to Palestinian traffic on October 2000, when the al-Aqsa Intifada broke out, following an order issued by then-Binyamin Territorial Brigade Commander Gal Hirsch.
The High Court of Justice last month accepted a petition by heads of Palestinian villages situated on Route 443, in which they demand the right to travel by this road. The new orders will come into effect in five months.