The PA blurs the Oslo Accord lines, building roads illegally in Israeli territory and criticizing Christians for not supporting its attempts to do so.
In response to Christian calls to ease access to an ancient Wadi Kelt monastery near Jericho, Israel has just completed the construction of a two-million shekel road from the Jerusalem-Jericho highway to the cliff-hanging, 1,500-year-old building. Until now, access was only via all-terrain vehicle or by foot, a nearly two-hour hike.
A festive dedication ceremony was held this past Tuesday, with the participation of Tourism Ministry Director-General Boaz Bar-Nir, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Aristarchos, and other notables. Israelis sources said the road was built in response to a request by Christian churches around the world, including the Greek Orthodox Church in Israel.
Bar-Nir said the project is part of the Tourism Ministry’s ambition to “make tourist sites in Israel accessible, and thereby expand the variety of the tourism product both for Israeli visitors and for tourists and pilgrims.” The monastery and vicinity are in what the Oslo Accords designate as Area C, under total Israeli administrative and military control.
Despite this, the PA complained about the Greek Orthodox Church’s cooperation with Israel on the matter. PA spokesman Hassan Hatib said the PA was “surprised” by the church's decision to attend the ceremony, implying that it should not have done so. Hatib also lamented that the PA’s request to build the access road – in Israeli territory – has been turned down by Israel.
Reuters reported that Archbishop Aristarchos declined to comment on the PA criticism on Wednesday, but said the new road to St. George's Monastery was of benefit to both pilgrims and the Holy Land.
PA Builds Road Illegally, Israel Takes It Down
Recently, the PA went ahead with plans to build a road under similar circumstances, even though Israel refused to grant permission. The road was built illegally some three months ago from the village of Karawat Bani Hassan, south of Karnei Shomron and in totally Israeli-controlled area. Israel did not carry through immediately on its threat to destroy the road, but rather waited until last week, when Mahmoud Abbas was abroad.
Despite the illegality of the road, which was paved in close proximity to a Jewish start-up neighborhood named Havat Meir (Meir Farm), Abbas denounced the destruction as an “act of sabotage,” and said that what he called “Freedom Road” would be rebuilt.
All of the above was summarized in a somewhat misleading headline in the LA Times last week, which read, “West Bank: Israel bulldozes Fayyad’s Freedom Road.”