Netanyahu Calls Off Bus Security Plan After Segregation Outcry

YERUSHALAYIM -

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu scrapped a plan for enhanced security on buses carrying Palestinian workers after opposition and leftist critics alleged discrimination on Wednesday.

Netanyahu ordered Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to suspend the program, which was just going into operation, after claims that it would have prevented Palestinian workers from traveling home on Israeli buses in Yehudah and Shomron after working inside the Green Line.

“The proposals are unacceptable to the prime minister. He spoke to the Defense minister this morning and it was decided to shelve the entire program,” said a senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office.

However, Yaalon insisted on Wednesday that the plan would not entail any segregation of Palestinians.

“There is no separation between Arabs and Jews on public transportation in Yehudah and Shomron,” Yaalon said. “There was no discussion about this, there was no decision about this, and there will not be any decision about this.”

“We started a pilot plan this week, an experiment, at four crossings in Yehudah and Shomron to check workers who are going to work in Israel on their way back. Every state has the right, and particularly in our delicate security situation, to check those who are coming in and out. This is what it is and nothing more.”

Yet, according to a Defense Ministry official quoted on Ynet, Palestinians “who work in Israel would need to return home by the same crossings without taking buses used by Israeli residents of Yehudah and Shomron.”

Word of the plan’s implementation on Wednesday morning caused an uproar. Meretz Party head Zahava Gal-On charged: “This is what apartheid looks like. There is no other polite definition that could fall more pleasantly on one’s ears.”

Opposition leader Isaac Herzog said “the separation of Palestinians and Israelis from public bus lines is an unnecessary humiliation. It is also a stain on the face of the state of Israel and its citizens … which has no bearing on the country’s security.”

Yaalon got no backing from Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein, who “praised the decision to cancel the pilot program, which in any event would have raised serious legal difficulties.”

However, Shomron Regional Council head Gershon Mesika asserted that Yaalon’s plan  was justified and warned of the consequences of abandoning it. “When the next terror attack occurs in Tel Aviv, the Left will have only themselves to blame,” Mesika said.

His council has for some time sought better protection for Israelis riding buses in Yehudah and Shomron who have been subject to overcrowding and personal harrassment.

Jewish Home MK Moti Yogev, who heads the subcommittee on Yehudah and Shomron in the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, rejected the claims of the critics.

He said the existing situation on the bus routes in the region has “caused personal harassment, theft and even feelings of insecurity,” and the overcrowded buses made it impossible “for the elderly and the young [passengers] who require public transit.”

Those who are against the program “don’t know the reality and their statements are hypocritical, disingenuous and irresponsible,” Yogev said.