Israel has opened a road connecting areas of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank with Jerusalem, making settler access from the occupied Palestinian territory to the holy city easier.
Route 4370, which had been closed and out of use for years since it was built over a decade ago due to staffing disputes between the police and army, was opened to traffic yesterday and is the first part of the eastern ring of Jerusalem. It will significantly ease congestion around northern Jerusalem by providing an extra or alternate route to the city from the illegal settlements.
Israel's Minister of Transport and Intelligence Yisrael Katz said that his department had invested more than 30 million shekels ($43 million) on Highway 4370. "The paving of the road constitutes an important step in connecting the residents of the [illegal West Bank settlements in the so-called] Binyamin region to Jerusalem and in strengthening the metropolitan area of Greater Jerusalem, following the opening of the Adam and other initiatives promoted by the Ministry of Transportation in recent years."
The re-opened route is, essentially, a way to further connect the settlers in the West Bank with the Israeli mainland and its newly proclaimed "capital" Jerusalem, in pursuit of Israel's overall aim of increasing its sovereignty over Palestinian territories. Interior Minister Gilad Erdan said: "This is one of many other steps to strengthen the services of the Ministry of Public Security on its bodies to the residents of Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] and to strengthen sovereignty in the area…We will continue to work to expand Israeli sovereignty throughout the entire area, while maintaining strict and consistent security needs."
The new route will also redirect Palestinian traffic through a new security checkpoint en route to Jerusalem and away from an existing road in the unbuilt area of E1 in the West Bank, effectively separating Palestinians and Jewish settlers from using the same routes.
Since US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the new capital of Israel in 2017, Israel has been increased projects and initiatives which prepare for its annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, critics have warned.