Demanding that the Arab Town of Jisr al-Zarqa be Connected via Roadway to the Tel Aviv-Haifa Coastal Highway

A.P. 1998/08 Local Council of Jisr al-Zarqa v. Ma'atz (Public Works Agency)

Today, 24 June 2008, Adalah and the local council of the Arab village of Jisr al-Zarqa filed a petition to the District Court in Tel Aviv demanding that the village be connected to the main, coastal highway (Route 2), which runs parallel to the village, by building a road junction to serve its residents and visitors. Route 2 runs between Haifa and Tel Aviv. It is the main and the newest road connecting these major cities as well as other cities, towns and villages along the way. The named respondents are the Interior Ministry and the Israeli National Road Company (Ma’atz).

Jisr al-Zarqa is the only Arab town lying on the coastal strip between Haifa and Tel Aviv. All of the Jewish towns and villages adjacent to Jisr al-Zarqa are connected to the coastal highway or are due to be connected within one year in accordance with detailed plans that have been prepared. However, there are no such plans for Jisr al-Zarqa, despite the fact that the village is similar to neighboring towns and village in terms of its basic characteristics and geographical proximity to the highway, and has a greater population and population density.

In the petition, Adalah Attorney Alaa Mahajna argued that, “Not connecting the village of Jisr al-Zarqa to the coastal highway means that the only way of accessing the village is through Route 4 via local road no. 6531. The Road Safety Service has pronounced local road 6531 a dangerous road. In addition, residents of and visitors to the village are obliged to travel a greater distance in order to reach the village from road 4, which constitutes a risk to their safety.” One kilometers of local road 6531 connects the village to Route 4, which lengthens journeys to and from the village and exposes travelers to greater hazards. Moreover, Route 4 is not an equal alternative to Route 2 as it is older, less convenient and less direct.

Various planning committees have examined the issue of building a road junction to connect the Jisr al-Zarqa to the coastal highway, and unanimously determined that a need exists for it. Furthermore, under national plan TAMAM 3, the construction of such a road junction is viable and permissible from the planning perspective. However, despite these opinions and in spite of requests made by the local council of Jisr al-Zarqa, no action has been taken. In 2004, following an objection submitted by the local council to the regional planning and building committee against the “Or Akiva” junction plan, located a few kilometers from Jisr al-Zarqa, the committee approved the plan on condition that the Israeli National Road Company (Ma’atz) be obliged to prepare a detailed plan for a junction to connect Jisr al-Zarqa to Route 2. In 2007, Ma’atz began work on the Or Akiva junction while disregarding its obligation to build a junction for Jisr al-Zarqa. In response to a request by the Jisr al-Zarqa local council, Ma’atz retracted its previous commitments and claimed that the construction of the Or Akiva junction is not conditioned on a plan for a junction for Jisr al-Zarqa.

In the petition, Adalah emphasized that not connecting Jisr al-Zarqa to the main coastal highway cuts its residents off from the main transportation routes in the country and hinders access to the main population centers as well as basic services such as health, educational, fire and emergency services. In addition, it limits the employment opportunities available for the residents of the village, which has a limited internal infrastructure and few workplaces. The lack of convenient access to nearby towns is particularly detrimental to the employment prospects of women from Jisr al-Zarqa. This, Adalah argued, violates the rights of the village’s residents to life, freedom of movement, equality, the right to employment, as well as the right for the village to develop.

Adalah further argued that Ma’atz’s policy of connecting Jewish towns and villages to the coastal road and not to do the same for Jisr al-Zarqa, clearly discriminates against Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and is in breach of the principle of equality.