Mussa (not his real name ), a Palestinian businessman who opened a quarry about a year ago across the Green Line from Modi’in, wanted to take advantage of its location and transport gravel to that Israeli city and its environs, as well as to Palestinian construction sites in the Ramallah area. He managed to close a deal with Israeli contractors to sell them gravel, but when his trucks arrived at the Na’alin checkpoint, Civil Administration officials ordered them to turn around. At the same time, he says, the Natuf quarry across the road, which belongs to the Israeli-owned Shafir Civil and Marine Engineering Ltd., delivers gravel in Israel uninterrupted.
Civil Administration officials explained to Mussa that his trucks could get to Modi’in only via another, more remote checkpoint, where the cargo would then be unloaded onto Israeli trucks that would reach Modi’in through areas inside the Green Line. Mussa estimates that this journey, which would be 70 kilometers longer, would make the gravel at least twice as expensive. “It is very frustrating,” he says. “Modi’in is so close, but because of the army’s orders it doesn’t pay for me to transport gravel to it.”
The Civil Administration said in response: “The Na’alin crossing is not suitable for transporting cargo because of its capacity for security checks.”
According to official figures, 94 percent of the output from West Bank quarries reaches construction sites in Israel, and supplies a quarter of the industry’s gravel needs. According to the data, Israel’s housing industry will be dependent on the gravel produced by the quarries for the next 35 years. If it weren’t for their activity, housing prices might today be even higher than those that prompted Daphni Leef and her friends to pitch tents on Rothschild Boulevard last summer.
“Gravel of various types is sold at a price of NIS 25-30 per ton,” explains Shimon Giller, an Israeli geologist who is intimately acquainted with the quarry industry in the West Bank. “Transport constitutes a large part of the cost to the consumer; it raises the gravel price by 30 agorot a ton per kilometer of travel. Gravel in the Eilat region, for example, costs around NIS 60 per ton. Aside from Judea and Samaria, most of the quality quarry sites are in the Galilee or northern Negev. This clearly has implications for housing prices.”
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