Israel will open new “Palestinian bus routes” in the West Bank tomorrow after bowing to pressure from settlers who argue that sharing transportation is a security risk.
Officially, the new lines, operated by the Afikim company, are designed to ease pressure on the transport network that carries people from the West Bank into central Israel, which many Palestinians with Israeli work permits use each day. However, the Transport Ministry in Jerusalem has been accused of promoting segregationist policies after advertisements for the new routes were produced only in Arabic and distributed only in Palestinian villages in the West Bank.
...According to Ynet, Palestinians who try to travel on the existing buses will be asked to get off. Avner Ovadia, spokesman for the Transport Ministry, said: “The ministry has not issued any instruction or prohibition that prevents Palestinian workers from travelling on public transport in Israel nor in Judea and Samaria.
“The ministry is not authorised to prevent any passenger from using public transport services.”
...Afikim issued its own statement: “This plan aims to ease travel for Palestinian passengers and offer a solution that counters pirate bus companies that charge exorbitant prices. “As for any question about removing Palestinian passengers from buses, that has to be addressed by the enforcement and security bodies.”
...security threats were also a consideration. According to Ha'aretz, pressure from Jewish settlers was a factor in the Transportation Ministry's plan.Ha'aretz also reports that the new lines are in part being created in a bid to stop so-called "pirate" driving services that have sprung up to help Arab workers get into central Israel. These services often charged high prices and will presumably be put out of business by the new, cheaper lines.
The news has sparked considerable coverage in Arab media, with Al Arabiya asking if the area needed another "Rosa Parks moment" and comparing the situation to racial segregation in the U.S. On Twitter, the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg argued that the controversy over the lines showed West Bank settlements were "incompatible with democracy".
"Yirsael Maidad [sic], a spokesman for the Jewish Settlers Council, said Israelis felt justified in refusing to share buses with Palestinians because of Israel’s experience with suicide bombers.
“Since we ride buses with Arabs every day in Israel, it’s not a racist thing but for some strange reason, Arabs blow themselves up in buses and Israelis find that very unnerving,” he said. “If you were to ask some bright young radical, he would say forcing Arabs to ride Israeli uses [sic] would be a form of colonialism. Having their own buses should be very much welcomed as part of a state-building process.”
As for Goldberg, I responded:
@JeffreyGoldberg Jewish communities are quite compatible with democracy; unfortunately, Arab terror is incompatible with life & existence.
In general, as we know, there is certainly no segregation or apartheid in Israel as Arabs and Jews ride the buses together. So, either apartheid exists specially in Yesha or, there is a special security problem.
The buses we use only have stops in the communities. Arabs can only enter, as per instructions from the IDF and the Civil Administration, only with special permits. So to where do they go? Not to Ramallah and not to their villages.
Last Thursday, an Arab rode on the 148 I was on and got off at Ofra and walked out of the gate towards Yabrud or some other nearby village. His identity card was checked and was in order - maybe it was even Israeli. No problems.
An earlier, related post.
A great insight.
Two vehicles belonging to Israeli company Afikim were torched Monday south of Qalqiliya, a day after the bus operator began two Palestinians-only lines in the occupied West Bank, Israeli police said.
“During the early hours of the morning two buses were torched in Kafr Qassem. Police arrived at the scene and are investigating who was behind the incident,” Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told Ma’an.
The background of the incident is unclear and the investigation is ongoing, he added.
Drivers from the Israeli company were asked to remove all buses from the Palestinian-Israeli town following the incident, Israeli new site Ynet reported.
“The new bus line is better, because we won’t have to go through all of this,” he said, adding that the buses were a cheaper alternative to the private minivans that shuttle Palestinians to work inside Israel. A bus ticket costs anywhere from $1 to $3, compared to $6 demanded by the private drivers.
Hosni Hanash, a 45-year-old construction worker from the village of Zeita, said he generally sets out from his village at 3:45 each morning, arrives in a taxi at the Eyal checkpoint at 4:30, and then spends an hour crossing through Eyal before heading in a private van to a full day of construction work.He said the separation that began Monday relieved some of the stress of the long morning journey. “We are comfortable being by ourselves,” he said.