Lies, Damn Lies, and Supreme Court briefs

The Israeli Supreme Court recently issued a temporary ruling on a petition brought by residents of six Palestinian villages who have been barred from using Highway 443. The highway is an Israeli-built road running from the Modi’in area near Tel Aviv, through the West Bank to the northern side of Jerusalem (actually, the north end of annexed East Jerusalem).

The petitioners, represented by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), asked the court to “repeal the IDF’s complete restriction on Palestinian movement on Route 443,” according to ACRI. Instead, the court gave the state six months to report on its efforts to built an alternative road for Palestinians only. Though this isn’t the final ruling, it looks like court approval for separate roads in the West Bank, segregated roads, for Israelis and Palestinians. The alternative road, by the way, has the Orwellian name, “Mirkam Haim” – “Fabric of Life Road” – meaning that Israel is protecting the fabric of normal life by building it.
As ACRI points out, Route 443 has a long history with the Supreme Court:

Parts of the road were built on land expropriated by the Israeli Military Commander in the 1980s. In response to a petition submitted at the time by local residents against the expropriation, the Supreme Court accepted the State’s claim that the road was intended primarily for the benefit of the local Palestinian population – the same population which is today prohibited from using the road.

One might conclude – the state would like us to conclude – that the contradiction is ex post facto. Originally the road was primarily for local Palestinians, but Israelis also used it. And it just happened to become a major thoroughfare from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. So when the second intifada began and Palestinians shot at Israeli cars several times on the road, the state responded by closing the road to all Palestinians and eventually decided to build a second road.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case. I’ve found clear historical evidence that the state was lying to the Court in the 1980s when it claimed that the road was primarily for local Palestinians.

Rather, the road was planned in the mid-70s as part of a wider plan for Israeli settlement around Jerusalem. In turn, that plan reflected the original Allon Plan, drawn up by the-Labor Minister Yigal Allon in July 1967, immediately after the Six-Day War. The road’s purpose was to serve settlements and the eventual annexation of West Bank land to Israel. Everything else was purely a cover story

The Supreme Court depends on affidavits submitted to it; it does not conduct its own evidence hearings. And though it has occasionally, rarely, overthrown government actions in occupied territories, it has been all too ready to accept the government at its word on the purposes of its actions.

Here’s some of the evidence the court should have seen:

In one of the files of the-defense minister Shimon Peres, a document from the spring of 1976 lays out settlement plans. It includes a “new access road to Jerusalem, from the Lod area, via the Beit Sira junction, to Givon junction and Jerusalem…” The road will help link new settlement blocs, including one which is in the area of present day Givat Ze’ev. (continued below image)

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Another document in the same file, from June 29, 1976, from the office of the government coordinator of activities in the territories, reports on a meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Settlement. The committee was informed of a decision by a parallel ministerial committee that dealt specifically with settlements intended to “widen Jerusalem.” The latter committee had approved the road that would become Route 443. (continued below image)

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Both documents serve to back up the version of events in Asor Shel Shikul Da’at by Yehiel Admoni (Yad Tabenkin, 1992), pp. 155-57. Admoni was the No. 2 man in the Jewish Agency’s Settlement Department during the crucial first decade of settlement after the Six-Day War. Admoni reports a meeting as early as July 1975, with Peres and settlement committee chairman Yisrael Galili participating, in which it was agreed to build the road in order to “widen Jerusalem” with settlements.

It’s not an accident that this plan was born during the years that Labor was in power. It fits Yigal Allon’s original proposal for how Israel should redraw its borders following the June 1967 conquests. I found Allon’s proposal to the cabinet in prime minister Eshkol’s files in the State Archives. The proposal states that west of Ramallah, the border should be drawn so that “the Latrun-Beit Horon-Jerusalem road will be in Israel’s hands.” (Route 443 roughly follows the route of the road that existed in those days.) Allon’s goal was to widen the corridor that linked Jerusalem with coastal Israel. When the plan to build the new road was approved in the 1970s, it was a means to “create facts” to ensure that the territory specified by Allon would remain under Israeli rule.

When the state told the court that the new road was for use of local Palestinians, it was counting on the court’s unwillingness to challenge the factual basis of the government’s position. When the court ruled this month to leave the road for Israeli-only use, it was again rubber-stamping the annexationist policy.

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