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 You can drive along and never see an Arab
 Amira Hass, Israel
 January 22, 2003
Monday marked the official opening of a tunnel that greatly reduces the distance from Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem and from the Jordan Valley to the center of the country. Or, to be more precise, that reduces the distance for Jews traveling from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. Now, Ma'aleh Adumim is almost touching Jerusalem, which embraces Har Homa, which abuts Gilo, and the latter two, thanks to fast roads that have already been or are now being paved, touch Efrat, which is continuously expanding along a row of hilltops, like a train to which a new car is added every month, and is gradually approaching Tekoa: The travel time is constantly decreasing.

Similarly, other settlements, large and small, old and new, are being connected by a network of wide, comfortable, traffic-free roads, completely devoid of Arabs. There is no Green Line: There is no difference between a neighborhood and a settlement, between a settlement and a city, between the campaign posters along roads inside Israel that urge the public to vote for Baruch Marzel and Herut or Avigdor Lieberman and between the same posters on roads in the West Bank, between what Ehud Barak called "isolated settlements" and what he called "settlement blocs."

Northeast of Ma'aleh Adumim, Pisgat Ze'ev (an integral part of Jerusalem the capital, never mind that it was built on lands annexed in 1967 from the Palestinian villages of Shuafat and Hizma), kisses the settlement of Geva, whose houses have been expanding southward and westward so that it will soon border the Sha'ar Binyamin industrial park. The industrial park is separated by only a short road from Kochav Ya'akov and Psagot, which are linked by another main road to Beit El and Ofra, which in turn are linked by other Arab-free roads to Givat Ze'ev, which stretches from Ramot almost all the way to Maccabim-Re'ut—and so on and so forth.

A person could travel the length and breadth of the West Bank without ever knowing—not only the names of the villages and cities whose lands were confiscated in order to build the Jewish settlements and neighborhoods, but even the fact that they exist. Most of their names cannot be found on the road signs. And from a distance, the calls of the muezzins and the streets empty of people (after all, there is nothing to go out for) seem like an aesthetic decoration. A Jew traveling on the almost empty roads of the West Bank would think that there no longer are any Arabs: They do not travel on the wide roads used by the Jews.

Very few Israelis who live in Israel proper travel through the West Bank. They did not go there even before the bloody struggle erupted anew, and they do not go there today, while it is at its height. Therefore, they have no way of knowing how mistaken they are in their beliefs about the decision-making processes in Israel over the last 35 years. The average Israeli—meaning one who does not live in Savion or Ramat Aviv Gimmel—judges according to what he sees around him, within the borders of the Green Line: a lot of confusion, tremendous lack of planning, here and there neglect, a lack of long-term vision, friction between the authorities, budget cuts, lack of judgment, waste.

But if more Israelis took the trouble to go to the West Bank or the Gaza Strip, they would be astonished by Israel's planning abilities, its long-term vision, its attention to detail, the way the huge sums allocated for the development and defense of Israelis in the territories have been translated into rivers of asphalt, high-quality street lights and military patrols around the Jewish settlements.

If one looks carefully at the network of roads that have been and are being built up and down the West Bank and Gaza, for the benefit of the Jews, one might think they had been planned 20 years ago or more to prevent the Palestinians from rising up against the settlements. In other words, the people who began then to plan innumerable Jewish settlements throughout the territories, to nurture them, to subsidize them, to build clinics and kindergartens and colleges in them, knew that in time the "natives" would not be able to endure the ongoing erosion of their lands and of their chances for an independent existence.

The people who planned the settlements, large and small, 20 years ago or more also knew that they must prevent the "natives" from harming the settlements or their residents—in other words, that they must build roads that would isolate every Palestinian city and village, that would divide them from each other and from the main roads, to such an extent that now all it takes is an earthen barrier to block a village's access to the road or to its olive groves, or a city's access to its industrial zone.

Israel's decision-makers, who over the last 20 years have carefully planned the location of every Jewish settlement in the West Bank and every water pipe and electricity pylon, also knew how to plan a ramified network of roads that would become a key weapon against the Palestinians. If you are good children and accept the dictate of the settlements, you can use the roads. If you are bad children—we will lock you into the tiny prisons that these roads so cleverly created.

Amira Hass is a reporter and columnist for the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

From Ha’aretz,January 22, 2003.