EXCLUSIVE: Israel builds new Jerusalem road, takes over the West Bank and connects government bases

JERUSALEM Construction is underway on a new ring road to Jerusalem, and Israeli officials say it will benefit all of its residents, but critics of the project say the future holds for Palestinian East Jerusalem. Another obstacle in hope is the creation of state capital.

The bypass, known as The American Road, connects Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank north and south of Jerusalem. A Jerusalem municipal official said on condition of anonymity that the central and southern sections of the road are already being built, and tenders are being issued - an estimated cost of $ 187 million.

In total, the project, which runs on or near the outer edge of East Jerusalem, is expected to cost more than a billion dollars. After the occupation of the territory, Israel closed East Jerusalem along with the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, which did not gain international recognition.

The build-up to the Israeli government's cabinet-level debate since July 1 on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's execution of an election promise to invade Jewish settlements in the West Bank is a planned move that has led to growing international criticism. In 2014, peace talks broke out between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli officials said the highway, which is a 1.6-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel east of Mount Olives, will reduce traffic congestion for Israelis and Palestinians living in the area.

"It does not consolidate boundaries. "But it adds more to them on a daily basis - whether it's study, tourism or commerce. In practice you make a huge American metropolis."

Palestinians say the new highway will primarily benefit settlers, and further reduce the viability of West Jerusalem as the state capital they seek in the West Bank and Gaza.

Jerusalem's Palestinian affairs minister, Fadi al-Hidmi, said by email that the project would cut the Palestinian territories of the city one by one. Responding to Reuters queries, al-Hidmi said it was part of Israel's "illegal" ring road project, which "encircled East Jerusalem and seized it from the rest of the West Bank to connect Israeli bases. The Palestinian capital has been transformed."

Israel's West Bank settlements were built by successive governments on the land that had occupied the 1967 war. Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, with more than 400,000 living. Palestinians believe that these settlements destabilize the future state, and many people in the world regard them as illegal under international law. Israel disputes this by citing its security needs and biblical and historical ties.

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