Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

Israel Suspends Segregated Bus Plan for Palestinians

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended on Wednesday new bus travel and checkpoint regulations for Palestinian laborers only hours after they were imposed to an outcry by critics accusing Israel of racial segregation.

Effectively overruling his defense minister, Netanyahu froze the edicts ahead of a meeting later in the day in Jerusalem with Federica Mogherini, foreign policy chief of the European Union, a group highly critical of Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu drew accusations at home and abroad of racism two months ago when he warned on election day that Arab citizens were voting in “droves.” He later apologized to members of Israel’s Arab minority for the remarks.

The “transit point program” that began early on Wednesday would have required Palestinians laborers in Israel to return to the occupied West Bank at the end of the workday via one of four checkpoints, where they would be registered. They would have needed to use Palestinian-only buses to get there.

Israeli civil liberties groups objected, as did Palestinian officials and Israeli legislators, including several from Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party and the leader of the opposition, Isaac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Union.

PARALLEL BUS SERVICES

“The segregation on public transport in Judea and Samaria is a needless humiliation, a stain on the country’s face and citizens,” Herzog said on Twitter, using the Biblical names for the West Bank area.

One Israeli official said the plan stemmed only from a need to “monitor the entry and exit of laborers who are not citizens, for security reasons, as any normal country would do.”

But as criticism of the move echoed in the Israeli media, a Netanyahu aide said the prime minister viewed the proposal as unacceptable.

“He spoke to the defense minister and it was decided to freeze it,” the aide said.

The now-suspended Defense Ministry initiative followed the opening in 2013 of Palestinian-only bus lines in the West Bank that ran in parallel to buses primarily serving Jewish settlers.

Hussein Fuqahaa, of the Palestinian Workers Union, said 45,000 to 50,000 Palestinians have Israeli employment permits. He said an almost identical number work in Israel without them, and he described the travel restrictions as a “racist measure” taken under the pretext of security.

During a Palestinian revolt that erupted in 2000, Israel was hit by dozens of suicide bombers from the West Bank. Such attacks have waned given security cooperation between Israel and the U.S.-backed Palestinian administration in the West Bank.



Thanks for reading this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war and rising antisemitism.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Support our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.