Welcome Aboard Israel's Apartheid Bus

Defense Minister Ya’alon is kowtowing to the settlers at the expense of the image of the State of Israel internationally and its remaining shreds of morality.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon arrives to attend the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014. AP

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon has instructed that Palestinian laborers be prohibited from using Israeli public transportation to travel between their homes in the West Bank and work in Israel. According to the report by Chaim Levinson in Haaretz on Sunday, Palestinian laborers will not be allowed to board buses traveling directly between central Israel and the West Bank at the end of their work day.

The minister’s decision comes despite the fact that the Israel Defense Forces see no security risk in Palestinians traveling on Israeli buses, because the only ones to do so are those with entry and work permits who undergo careful security checks when they enter Israel. Thus, Ya’alon’s decision is purely a result of his having given in to the longtime pressure exerted on him by settlers demanding that Palestinians not be allowed to board “their” buses.

The minister’s decision reeks of apartheid, typical of the Israeli occupation regime in the territories. One of the most blatant symbols of the regime of racial separation in South Africa was the separate bus lines for whites and blacks. Now, Ya’alon has implemented the same policy in the occupied territories. In so doing, he justifies the claims of those who brand Israel internationally as an apartheid state.

Ya’alon’s decision also means a heavier burden on the Palestinians in the West Bank. Few among them are allowed to work in Israel, and those who are allowed to work in Israel face an exhausting, humiliating and painful experience on their way to and from work. Now, Ya’alon is making it even harder on them.

The defense minister made it his goal a long time ago to satisfy the settlers; to dance to their tune and make almost all their wishes and demands come true. He does this out of cynical personal and political considerations - to reinforce his status as a leader of the extreme right. The saga of his murky relations with the American administration following his disparaging remarks about Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials shows how much Ya’alon longs for the settlers’ embrace.

This time, Ya’alon is kowtowing to the settlers at the expense of the image of the State of Israel internationally and its remaining shreds of morality. And all by abusing a few tens of thousands of Palestinians permitted to make a paltry living in Israel.

Ya’alon’s has instructed the Civil Administration to prepare for the implementation of his decision until it can be done in practice. It would be better for him to annul it immediately and remove this shame from Israel.