After nearly a decade of legal battles spearheaded by Israeli civil rights groups, the Israeli High Court ruled today that the military did not have the authority to declare a key West Bank highway “Israeli only” and block Palestinians from using it.
This means that for the first time since 2002, Palestinians will be allowed to take Route 443, giving villagers convenient access to Ramallah and relieving a crisis which has been building since the military edict.
The military had insisted that it could bar Palestinians from the 443 for any reason, and has prevented them from even using it in cases of medical emergencies. Palestinians have had to use a poorly maintained single lane road that winds through the region and tunnels underneath the 443.
The court insisted that the military’s action was contrary to international law and has given them five months to revamp their security before having to allow Palestinians access. The court left open the possibility that the military can block the road to Palestinian traffic in the future, as circumstances dictate, but that it can not issue permanent bans as the one currently in place.
The military seized the land on which the highway was built in the early 1980s, arguing that it was primarily for the benefit of Palestinian villagers. The judges made clear that claim was part of their decision, insisting that if the military had said the road would be “Israeli only” at the time they would never have allowed the land to be seized in the first place.
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