For a country fighting allegations of racism and apartheid against its Arab citizens, introducing a “Palestinian-only” bus line for workers entering Israel from the West Bank may not be the smartest move.
The line came into operation Monday and immediately had Israeli human rights groups up in arms.
Zahava Gal-On, the leader of the leftist political party Meretz, demanded that the transport ministry “immediately cancel the segregated lines in the West Bank.”
“Separate bus lines for Palestinians prove that occupation and democracy cannot coexist,” she added.
The move, says Fletcher, “follows pressure from Jewish settlers…who objected to sharing their buses with Palestinians” out of “fear that Palestinians could leave bombs on the buses and blow them up.”
The bottom line is that what may or may not be a legitimate security concern has been turned by bureaucrats into another weapon for Israel’s critics.
UPDATE: Jeffrey Goldberg received this clarification from the spokesman at the Israeli embassy in Washington:
Right now, Palestinians wishing to cross legally into Israel (with a working permit) have no direct line to the border crossing. So they either take unauthorized taxis (at expensive fares, since the service is uncontrolled by transportation authorities), or they have to walk or travel to an Israeli city or village (Ariel, for instance) and there take a bus into Israel. The relevant bus company opened two lines that will serve Palestinians, going from their place of residence into Israel, saving them the trouble of going to Ariel first, or taking those taxis. The bus company made it clear, in an official announcement, that no Palestinian shall be shunned or rejected if they choose to travel on the Ariel line.