After severe criticism from the Palestinian officials, Israeli lawmakers and human rights groups, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shelved his Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s “apartheid” plan to segregate Palestinians from Israelis on West Bank buses, just few hours after it was announced.
The leader of Israel’s left wing Meretz party Zahava Gal-On even called it “apartheid” while Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog labeled it a “stain on the state and its citizens” that would damage Israel’s international image – perhaps the only pressure that led Netanyahu to suspend the controversial ban.
However, despite the fact that the bus ban seems like ethnic separation more than anything else, Ya’alon continues to justify it as a security concern and refuses to withdraw the proposal.
“We started a pilot plan this week, an experiment, at four crossings in Judea and Samaria to check workers who go to work in Israel, on their way back [to the West Bank]. Every state has the right, and particularly in our delicate security situation, to check those who are coming in and out. This is what is it, and nothing more,” the Defense Minister said after Netanyahu froze the three-month pilot scheme, calling it “unacceptable.”
The program, if implemented, would have added up to two hours onto laborers' already long commute as they would have to travel through certain check points in order to get back home in buses separate from Israelis.
In addition to that, it would have caused a major uproar all over the world, making Israel look like an apartheid regime – something the state cannot possibly afford in times when it’s trying to address Western frustrations over the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin believes that the project "could have led to an unthinkable separation between bus lines for Jews and Arabs.”
“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,” he explained.