In response to complaints from Jewish residents in Yehudah and Shomron concerning security risks and overcrowding, two new bus lines for the Palestinian population began operating on Monday amid protest and confusion.
The new system, billed by the Transportaton Ministry as an improvement in service for everyone, has been welcomed by Jewish commuters while denounced by leftists as “apartheid.”
But one thing on which all could agree on Monday was that the opening of the Palestinian routes was an organizational fiasco.
The overcrowding has been attributed to the issuance of hundreds of additional work permits for Palestinians in Israel proper in recent months.
In the morning, a disturbance broke out at the Eyal crossing, next to Qalqilya after a number of Palestinian laborers were unable to get to their jobs inside the Green Line. They protested that as of now, they must arrive at the crossing from distance points to reach the new bus lines, their only means of entering central Israel, according to a Ynet report.
Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz acknowledged the chaotic conditions on Day 1 and indicated things will get better. He instructed that the new Afikim bus company lines will be beefed up to meet demand. “In light of the great overflow on the few lines operated this morning, the Ministry will asses the possibility that lines will leave from additional points in Yehudah and Shomron, making it easier for the travelers.”
Karnei Shomron Regional Council Chairman Herzl Ben-Ari, a leading proponent of the new lines, approved the change.
Additional laborers who arrived at the crossing verbally confronted Transport Ministry and Afikim bus company representatives, who were guarded by police.
The Ministry of Transportion issued a statement clarifying that it is not imposing a segregated system on the Palestinians. “The Ministry has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from travelling on public transport in Israel nor in Yehudah and Shomron,” it said.
Meretz Chairwoman Zahava Gal-On condemned the decision: “Separation on buses based on ethnicity was customary in the past in racist regimes around the world and is unacceptable in a democratic country.”
Peace Now and B’Tselem also opposed the idea.