The inauguration of a new road in northern Jerusalem last week has alleviated traffic jams but also drawn criticism over its implications for the peace process.
Route 20 is a mile-long dual carriageway connecting the north-eastern neighbourhoods of Pisgat Zeev and Neve Ya’akov with the main north-south Begin Highway and the western exit from Jerusalem towards Tel Aviv.
The road, which significantly reduces traffic jams in the north of the city, took over two years to build due to objections filed by residents of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Beit Hanina, which it bisects.
In addition to the local opposition, peace groups claim that Route 20 is the first part of a larger project to the north and south of Jerusalem’s centre: to connect Jewish neighbourhoods built beyond the Green Line with the main transport network.
Two more similar roads are to be built over the next three years and, according to the campaigners, their existence will make it much more difficult to divide Jerusalem’s municipal area into two capitals in a future peace deal.
Senior Israeli officials denied that the road had any political implications. “The transport infrastructure in Jerusalem, just like in the other large cities in Israel, needs special attention,” said Transport Minister Yisrael Katz.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the road’s inauguration ceremony last week: “We are continuously and methodically working to connect Jerusalem to itself and to connect it to the rest of our country, because it is important to us.”
The main interchange on Route 20 is named after Professor Ben-Zion Netanyahu, the late father of the prime minister.
Prof Netanyahu died last year and, while streets in Jerusalem are normally only named after people at least three years after their death, the decision to name the interchange was fast-tracked. Opposition members of Jerusalem City Council said that Prof Netanyahu, a celebrated historian of the Spanish Inquisition, deserved to be commemorated but criticised the decision to bend the rules.