Israel has reportedly approved a budget for the construction of the so-called Eastern Ring Road in the occupied West Bank, known by activists and rights groups as the “Apartheid road.”
The road, part of Israel’s plans of developing the controversial E1 corridor, has been denounced as an attempt to further expand illegal Israeli settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory, while deepening the separation between Palestinian communities on opposite sides of Israel’s separation wall.
According to a statement released by Israeli rights group Ir Amim on Monday, the development of the road is “one of several developments necessary for preparing the ground for E1.”
The reports emerged from Israeli media outlet Israel Hayom, which stated that the road is expected to be opened to Israeli traffic in the next 10 months.
According to rights groups, settlement construction in E1 would effectively divide the West Bank and make the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state – as envisaged by the internationally backed two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict – almost impossible.
Israeli activity in E1 has attracted widespread international condemnation, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has in the past said that “E1 is a red line that cannot be crossed.”
However, the Eastern Ring Road was proposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon as a plan to apparently solve the issue of bifurcating the West Bank, by facilitating “navigation from Ramallah to Bethlehem for Palestinians but without any access to Jerusalem.”
Following the second Palestinian intifada and Israel’s construction of the separation wall that has disjointed Palestinian territory, Palestinians from the “West Bank side” of the separation barrier have been forced to obtain Israeli-issued permits in order to access occupied East Jerusalem, which some Palestinians and the international community still consider to be the future capital of an independent Palestinian state.
A map released by Ir Amim shows the expected route of the road. According to the group, the road would “ease access” for Israeli settlers residing around Ramallah in contravention of international law, as settlers have “long exerted pressure to open the road, complaining about traffic jams and delays.”
Ir Amim pointed out that the Israel’s plan would enable further expansions of Israel’s illegal settlements around Ramallah.
The road is also planned to connect with Road 1 that connects the mega settlement Maale Adumim with Jerusalem, and would also link to the Mount Scopus Tunnel Road through the Zeitim interchange, another controversial E1 related project that Israeli authorities had begun construction on several months ago, according to Ir Amim.
Israel’s plans in E1 have long been denounced by rights groups and the international community since its approval in 1999, in the wake of the Oslo Accords which expected the area of E1 to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA) within an interim period of five years.