Israeli authorities are building ‘Palestinian-only’ roads in the West Bank, while retaining existing illegal settler highways as ‘Israeli-only’ roads, said a senior Israeli security source Friday.
Palestinians condemned the idea as a form of apartheid and said the initiative appeared aimed at cementing Israel’s hold on occupied land that they want to claim as part of Israel.
The Israeli source, said the plan was not yet official. "We want to ease access to various Palestinian communities," the source said. "There is no intention of bringing about a separation of Israeli and Palestinian traffic. Palestinians will continue to make use of the roads they use today."
The source said, however, that Israelis would be banned from the future Palestinians-only roads because "we do not want them to get into a situation where their lives would be at risk".
No details were immediately available of the extent of the proposed network or of when the plan might take effect.
"This is an apartheid system," said top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erikat. "We urge the international community to help us in order to cancel such policies and end Israeli occupation."
250,000 Israeli settlers live in colonies in the Palestinian West Bank, home to 3 million Palestinians. Israeli authorities have said they plan to retain most settlements in the West Bank, building walls arund the remaining Palestinian land. Some minor withdrawals from settlement outposts has sparked protest from Israelis who want to continue the expansion of the Israeli state onto Palestinian land.
Using curfews and military checkpoints, Israel has often imposed ad hoc restrictions on Palestinians since fighting erupted in 2000. Palestinian and settler vehicles have different colored license plates, by which Israeli authorities judge who to delay at checkpoints.
In the Gaza Strip, settlers had at least one major road for their exclusive use, which circumvented a Palestinian highway. Although Israel called the move a security measure, Palestinians said it was a form of apartheid. The United Nations and International COurt of Justice declared Israel’s ‘separate and unequal’ system a violation of international law and human rights agreements, of which Israel is a signatory.
The International Court of Justice has branded all Israel’s settlements on occupied land illegal.