Photo: Motti Kimchi
Moshe Ya'alon
Photo: Motti Kimchi

Netanyahu suspends ban on Palestinians using Israeli buses in West Bank

Defense Ministry's three-month trial scheme also required Palestinians to enter and exit West Bank through same point.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has overruled his Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Wednesday and called off a proposed plan to segregate Palestinians from Israelis on West Bank buses, hours after it was introduced.



An official in the prime minister's office said Netanyahu called Ya'alon to tell him he found the proposal "unacceptable" and the two decided to freeze the plan.


According to a Defense Ministry official, the ban had applied to Palestinians who commute to Israel to work.


"Under a three-month pilot project, Palestinians who work in Israel will, starting Wednesday, need to return home by the same crossings without taking buses used by (Israeli) residents of Judea and Samaria," the official said.


The scheme was to have been reviewed after three months.


Israeli bus line in the West Bank (Archive)
Israeli bus line in the West Bank (Archive)


Palestinians have hitherto been able to enter and exit Israel through a variety of checkpoints, but under the new scheme, some workers would have been forced to use the same point for both. This could have extended the travel times by hours.


The plan meant that thousands of Palestinians employed in Israel would have been restricted to four checkpoints to reach their place of work and had to return home by the same crossing points. On their return to the West Bank, Palestinians would then have taken Palestinian, and not Israeli, buses to take them home, the source said.


Opposition leader Isaac Herzog attacked the decision, saying it marked a "stain on the face of the country."


Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, told Israeli radio that Israel "will draw lessons from this experience at the end of the three-month trial period."


The radio said Ya'alon believes the measures would have granted "more control over Palestinians coming in and out of Israel and reduce security risks."


This move have been the subject of lobbying by West Bank settlers for several years.


Rivlin welcomes suspension, settlers chagrined

President Reuven Rivlin welcomed to move which, he said, "could have led to an unthinkable separation between bus lines for Jews and Arabs."


"As one who loves the Land of Israel, I have nothing but regret for the discordant voices that we heard this morning, supporting the separation between Jews and Arabs on the basis of ideas that have no place being heard or said," Rivlin said.


"Such statements go against the very foundations of the State of Israel, and impact upon our very ability to establish here a Jewish and democratic state. Such statements cause great damage to the State of Israel, and to the settlement movement. It is important we remember that our sovereignty obligates us to prove our ability to live side by side."


Yesh Din welcomed the decision to suspend the move, but said that "the fact a host of political leaders, high-ranking juridsts and senior army officers imagined the despicable practice of ethnic segregation on public transportation is a cause worth promoting is disturbing and should make every Israeli ashamed."


The NGO vowed to "continue being vigilant and not let go of the matter until it is completely off the table."


Peace Now also welcomed the decision to suspend the move, but demanded to cancel the scheme altogether.


"The defense minister must announce the cancellation of the bus segregation plan rather than settle for a suspension. Even without the bus segregation, the occupation continues in the territories and discrimination between settlers and Palestinians is a daily reality," Peace Now said.


Head of the Shomron Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, deplored the "unbearable easiness with which vital security decisions are cancelled, over a few media headlines."


He claimed the move was meant to curtail the infiltration of Palestinians who enter Israel illegally and prevent terror attacks that originate in Palestinian villages and cities in the West Bank.


"Unfortunately, in recent years due to the lack of security checks, there has been a significant rise in the involvement of Palestinians who enter illegally in terror attacks. In 2014 alone, there was a 100 percent rise in attempted infiltrations of Palestinians entering Israel illegally and a 200 percent rise in attempts to smuggle arms from the West Bank to Israel," Mesika said, quoting data he says was provided by military police.


He mentioned the attack in which a soldier was stabbed to death in the heart of Tel Aviv by a Palestinian who entered the country illegally, and the terror attack on Bus number 40 in early 2015.


"When the next attack happens in Tel Aviv, remember this day in which, thanks to the left-wing, a decision crucial to the safety of the people of Israel was cancelled."



Moran Azulay, Itay Blumenthal and the Associated Press contributed to this report.


פרסום ראשון: 05.20.15, 08:52
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