Mo’ayiad Raghib knew first-hand the problems with movement and access in the West Bank. Mo’ayiad, who owns the Memar cement factory in Baqa ash Sharkiya, complained, “My factory is 15 minutes away from Yabad, a major market for me, but since the road is closed, I must travel 45 minutes. As a result, I have lost large municipal contracts because of the costs I must charge for shipping.”
Since 2005, Israeli military restrictions have prevented Palestinians from travelling along Route 585, the main road between the Jenin and Tulkarm governorates. Closure of the road affected the lives of more than 330,000 local Palestinian residents; families were separated and businesses were cut off from customers, as people were forced to detour through poor-quality village roads, increasing travel time by upwards of 45 minutes.
Responding to Palestinian concerns, the USAID Trade Facilitation Project
began to study the economic impact of the closure and develop the case for its removal. Through a series of field visits and interviews with local and international partners in Tulkarm, Jenin, and area villages, the project found that every month, roughly 360 commercial shipments — including 160 full container shipments — moving between Tulkarm and Jenin were paying 72,000 Israeli new shekels in increased shipping costs because of the inferior road network. The closure also affected businesses along the route by cutting off direct access to markets and supplies. Five businesses that the project surveyed estimated nearly 2 million shekels in lost sales and higher costs annually as a result of the closure.
With these findings, the project raised awareness of the concerns and limitations facing the local communities. The evaluation was presented to U.S. and international stakeholders during a USAID-hosted interagency meeting on movement and access, drawing attention to the obstacle’s importance. Then, the project presented the findings to the Israeli Civil Administration in Jenin to make the case for removal. The evaluation was well received, and the Civil Administration agreed to raise the issue with senior Israeli Defense Force commanders. These efforts, together with those of others international partners, produced results. During the Eid al-Adha holiday, the Israeli Defense Force announced the full re-opening of Route 585.
For Northern West Bank traders and residents, opening their traditional access route has been a long-awaited development. Mo’ayiad and more than 1,200 other Palestinians are using Route 585 daily, connecting families, improving trade conditions, and giving local residents hope for a better future.
Four months after the road’s reopening, Bilal Al Jammal, a member of the shippers union in Jenin said, “Now, I am saving 15 to 30 minutes per shipment. This means I can make three to four shipments (daily), when before, it was one to two only.”
Mo’ayiad also is enjoying the benefits of an open Route 585. “With greater mobility between my factories (in Jenin and Tulkarm), I can handle larger orders and reestablish delivery to large customers in Qabatiya and Jenin. I already have a 30 percent increase in production. This is a blessing for me and my family and my employees.”