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Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway off-limits to Palestinians

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Highway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv bans PalestiniansFor eight years, Israeli commuters have whizzed between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Route 443, a highway whose West Bank portion is lined with barriers and is off-limits to Palestinians who live along the way.

Naji Suliman, mayor of the Palestinian community of Beit Ur al-Tahta, thought that would change after a decision by Israel's Supreme Court calling for the ban on Palestinians to be lifted by May. But after meeting with a commander from the Israeli military last week, Suliman concluded that Israel's actions have been "just for public relations."

To comply with the court ruling, the military plans to create only two entry points to a 9-mile section of the highway for Palestinians, who will be subject to searches. And there are no plans to reopen an artery linking the highway to the commercial hub of Ramallah, which Suliman said is the main reason his residents want access in the first place.

The debate over Highway 443 illustrates a fundamental rub in the West Bank: If the Israelis and Palestinians can't agree over how to share nine miles of pavement, how will they ever resolve the far more complex issues that divide them?

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