QARAWAT BANI HASSAN, West Bank – The Israeli army on Wednesday destroyed a farm road built as part of a Palestinian campaign to assist residents, an apparent attempt to limit Palestinian efforts to extend their reach in the West Bank.
Residents said the road allowed them to reach their fields in a valley near the hilltop village and haul out their harvests with cars instead of the donkey carts they used in the past.
The Israeli military said the road was built illegally in a nature preserve. On Wednesday, while soldiers clashed with stone-throwing village youth, a bulldozer cut strips through the road, leaving it unusable.
The road was a small part of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's two-year program of building institutions for a state.
While Palestinians have limited autonomy in the West Bank's main cities, about 60 percent of the territory remains under full Israeli control.
Fayyad has carried out several small projects in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank, whose needs he says Israel ignores. The road destroyed Wednesday, completed late last year, was one such project.
Israel says the interim agreements that established the Palestinian Authority also defined where it can act in the West Bank, and it must follow the rules.
Fayyad, who was out of the country, could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, he had roads paved in a Bedouin village in the Jordan Valley that Israel has slated for demolition. The order has not yet been carried out. He gave another community a trailer to use as a school, but the Israeli military later demolished it, saying it was illegal.
Fayyad announced this month that his government had quietly helped fund the renovation of 14 schools in east Jerusalem — the disputed sector of the city where the Palestinians claim as the capital of their future state. Israel complained but took no action.
Also Wednesday, the Arab League criticized a new Israeli law that requires a referendum before Israel would cede territory it annexed — east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in the 1967 war. Israel has not annexed the West Bank.
A referendum would be called if the proposal to give up territory did not garner a two-thirds majority in parliament.
Deputy Arab League chief Ahmed Ben Heli warned the move would have repercussions on peace talks.
He said the Arab League believed the law shows how Israeli government is "radicalizing international law and principles of peace process." He also called on the United States to take an action.
Others, including Palestinian officials, have criticized the law.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev rejected the criticism, calling it "strange, considering that successive Palestinian presidents have said that if a peace agreement is reached between Israelis and Palestinians, that they will take it to the Palestinian people in a referendum. Why do they think such a process is good for them and not good for us?"
Maggie Michael contributed to this report from Cairo.