No one in the West Bank takes Route 60 without apprehension. Yet it is one of the busiest thoroughfares in this territory militarily occupied by Israel since the Six Day War in 1967. It crosses it from north to south, from Jenin to Hebron via Jerusalem. In this cramped, fragmented region, where two hermetic and defiant worlds overlap, Route 60 is one of the last places where we meet. Israelis in "legal" or "illegal" settlements; Palestinian cities, farming villages, refugee camps - all have to go through this. Often, fear invites itself on board cars.
Thirty years after the signing of the Oslo Accords on 13 September 1993, hope for peace between Israel and Palestine has faded and the prospect of a two-State solution seems illusory. Only the technical aspect of the pact still survives: management of labour flows, tax collection, security collaboration. Isolated, weakened, the Palestinian Authority (PA) is discredited in the eyes of the Palestinian population. At the same time, the grip of Israeli settlers is intensifying. For the younger generation of Palestinians, who did not experience the second intifada (uprising) in the 2000s, nor the "Operation Defensive Shield" then launched by the Israeli army, armed struggle seems the only option. The hotbeds of resistance are no longer confined to Jenin or Nablus, they spread thanks to social networks where young fighters publish their deeds and parade, weapons in hand.
To each his license plate
For the year 2023, the number of victims has already reached proportions similar to those of the second intifada: at least 238 Palestinians and 28 Israelis have been killed. Violence on both sides is a daily occurrence. They are more or less intense: settlers chasing shepherds from their pastures, teenagers throwing concrete blocks at Israeli cars, attacks on checkpoints with assault rifles or car-rammings, knife attacks, throwing Molotov cocktails at army posts, raiding settlers on Palestinian villages, military operations, destruction of homes. Most go unnoticed, in Israel as elsewhere.
Israeli soldiers stand guard outside the bus stop at the Tapuah junction along Route 60. Kobi Wolf for Le Figaro
Violence is most prevalent in the northern West Bank, in the part to which most Israelis give the biblical name "Samaria," that violence is most prevalent. There, after leaving behind Jerusalem and Ramallah, the "capital" of the Palestinian Authority, Route 60 winds through the hills, towards Nablus and Jenin. The license plates indicate which side each vehicle belongs to: they are yellow and black for Israelis, white and green for Palestinians. Protected by soldiers, the bus stations are the meeting place for young settlers, among whom the practice of hitchhiking is widespread. They give a thumbs down as soon as they see a Palestinian car. Sheltered from their concrete booths, Israeli soldiers point their weapons at all cars. IDF tanks have a black plate. They keep coming and going along Highway 60.
For Israelis driving towards the many settlements in the area, Eli's gas station is a familiar stopover. With its myriad of Israeli flags...
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