The territorial fragmentation of the West Bank is exacerbated by the divided road system, which places restrictions on Palestinian movement. 79 kilometres of so-called 'sterile' roads are only accessible to blue ID holders (Israeli citizens with yellow car license plates) and cannot be used by West Bank Palestinians (with green IDs). Palestinian presence on these roads, which usually connect Israeli settlements, is illegal. The roads designated for Palestinian use are often sub-standard non-paved or dirt tracks, which are sectioned off from the Israeli roads with high fences and can be closed without prior warning by Israeli forces. The consequences for Palestinians accessing Israeli-only roads include arrest, delays, detainment, confiscation of cars, and even death. 155 kilometres of road have restricted access for West Bank Palestinians, and often require special permits that are very difficult to obtain. B’Tselem and Ma’an Development Center provide lists of the location and length of these ‘sterile’ roads, partially prohibited and restricted roads (B’Tselem 2004; Ma’an 2008).
These restrictions are further exacerbated by the maltreatment Palestinians receive at checkpoints. The map below outlines the various movement restrictions for Palestinians on foot and in vehicles, imposed via checkpoints. On roads shared by Israelis and Palestinians, it is common for Palestinian cars, which are easily identified by their green licence plates, to be delayed and searched frequently (B’Tselem 2004; Ma’an 2008).
There are potentially severe consequences for West Bank Palestinians who attempt to pass through checkpoints into Israel or Israeli settlements within the West Bank. Therefore, the need for accurate mapping and route planning services is immense. The movement restrictions on Palestinians can have life-threatening consequences: West Bank Palestinians have died at checkpoints after being denied passage by Israeli authorities (B’Tselem 2004). Palestinians have also died at settlement entrances and bus stops after being shot by Israeli soldiers under the pretext that they allegedly posed a threat (Brown 2014).
This section explains and compares the route planning applications Google Maps, Waze and Maps.me, including how these apps name checkpoints and Israeli settlements. The section also provides an analysis of route planning with the following five routes: (1) from the central West Bank city of Ramallah to the northern West Bank city of Nablus, (2) from Ramallah to the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem, (3) within the south Hebron Hills rural communities in the West Bank: from the town of Yatta to the village of At-Tuwani, (4) from Gaza to Haifa within Israel, and (5) from Gaza to Ramallah in the West Bank.