The IDF opened the main road in the Jewish section of Hevron to Arab traffic on Sunday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the move to ease the lives of Arabs who live in the area, despite warnings from senior security officials that opening the road could lead to a terror attack, and numerous struggles over the issue with local Jewish residents.
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Video tour of Zion Route by Hevron's David Wilder.
“Today, we started down the road to another terrorist attack, G-d forbid,” Hevron resident and parliamentary aide Itamar Ben-Gevir said. “Opening this route is an abandonment of the soldiers and the residents just to gain some positive public relations for [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak, who continue to prove they are dangerous for the State of Israel.”
'Like a cancer'
Hevron spokesman David Wilder explained that opening the road is a success for Arab and left-wing groups who for years have pressured the IDF to relax security measures that managed to maintain the peace in Hevron.
Opening the road blocks / Israel news photo: David Wilder
“Its like a cancer that starts small and then grows,” Wilder explained. “First they’ll open this road to a small amount of traffic. Then they’ll claim that it has been quiet, so the road can be opened to more traffic. I can only hope this won’t lead to a disaster.”
Wilder was optimistic, however, that many Jews would continue to visit Hevron and the Cave of the Patriarchs. “The nation of Israel has always had a very natural and healthy approach to Hevron. Even during the most difficult times people come. This will hopefully spur more people to come and show their support for a strong Hevron.
The road in question, named the Zion route (Hebrew: Tzir Tzion), leads from Kiryat Arba to the Jewish community in Hevron and passes through the 20 percent of Hevron which is controlled by Israel. The other 80 percent is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, as per the Wye Accords signed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in 1998.
The route was closed to Arab traffic following repeated terrorist attacks along its course, including the massacre of 12 soldiers, Border Police officers and members of the Kiryat Arba security team in November 2002. Hevron Brigade Commander Col. Dror Weinberg was among those killed in that ambush.
Earlier this year, however, the IDF announced it would reopen the route to Arabs.
IDF Radio quoted military sources Sunday who said the move was carried out in compliance with the High Court's rulings and that only members of 88 Arab families would be allowed to use the route.
Diskin issued warning
The residents and leaders of the Hevron and Kiryat Arba communities protested, but the Defense Ministry was adamant about the decision. Before the road was opened, however, Israeli Security Agency (Shin Bet) Chief Yuval Diskin testified to the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs Committee that opening the route would be a danger to the Jewish residents of the area.
The plans to open the road were shelved pending further investigation by the Knesset Committee into the question. However, two weeks ago, the Defense Ministry told the Supreme Court it would open the route by the end of July, and on Sunday made good on its promise.