US Bans Government Workers from Israeli Highway 443 at Night
The U.S. government has banned its workers from traveling on Highway 443 at night, adding fuel to complaints from Jewish drivers that the High Court decision to open the road to Palestinian Authority motorists endangers their lives. The American government also prohibits its workers from using roads in Judea and Samaria.
The American government’s instruction was posted on its consular affairs website one day after it was reported that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s security team does not allow him to travel the road at all, whether day or night.
“U.S. Government personnel and family members are permitted both official and personal travel on Route 443 between Modi'in and Jerusalem without prior notification, during daylight hours only,” the website states. “All other personal travel in the West Bank [Judea and Samaria], unless specifically authorized for mission-approved purposes, is prohibited.”
Highway 443 is a major artery connecting Jerusalem with the area of Ben Gurion airport and metropolitan Tel Aviv. It was closed in 2002 following several murderous Arab terrorist attacks. Answering a High Court petition filed filed by Arb abd pro-Arab groups, the High Court ruled the blanket closure was unfair to the general Arab population.
It ordered the IDF to install new security arrangements to protect Jewish drivers while allowing PA Arabs to drive on the road. Several rock throwing incidents have been reported on the highway since it was reopened several weeks ago.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch headed the panel and overruled conclusions concerning the danger of reopening the highway. Her decision noted the danger involved but that “despite the understanding for the security needs," keeping PA drivers off the road gives “rise to a feeling of inequality and even an association of unacceptable motives.”
The blanket U.S. order against travel in Judea and Samaria, without prior permission, previously has been posted despite dozens of “goodwill” measures that Israel, under pressure from the American government, has carried out to easy travel for PA Arabs. These measures generally involve checkpoints and roadblocks that were removed – and quickly followed by shootings.
Last week, Arab terrorists, apparently from the Hevron area, killed an Israeli policeman and wounded two others after they opened fire at their vehicle near a former roadblock.
Although the American government has pressed for the goodwill measures aimed at propping up the rule of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and has trained PA police to fight terror, the State Department advises its citizens to stay off the highways there.
“Demonstrations and violent incidents can occur without warning,” citizens are told. “Vehicles have also been the target of rocks, Molotov cocktails and gunfire on West Bank roads. The IDF continues to carry out security operations in the West Bank.”
The advisory also singles out the Israeli security forces as the source of possible danger, while not referring to terrorists. “U.S. citizens have been killed, seriously injured, or detained and deported as a result of encounters with IDF operations in Gaza and the West Bank,” the advisory continues.
"Travel restrictions may be imposed by Israel with little or no warning. Strict measures have frequently been imposed following terrorist actions, and the movement of Palestinian Americans, both those with residency status in the West Bank or Gaza as well as foreign passport holders, has been severely impeded.”
The State Department continues to forbid government employees from visiting the Old City at night and between 11 a.m.and 2 p.m. on Fridays, the Muslim Sabbath.