Defense Min. Justifies Ban on Palestinians in West Bank Buses on ‘Security Grounds’

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A Palestinian laborer boards a bus to work in central Israel, at the Eyal crossing in the West Bank, March 4, 2013.Credit: Moti Milrod

An official in Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s bureau said on Sunday, following the publication of a report in Haaretz, that the decision to prohibit Palestinian workers from using settlers’ bus lines had been made for security reasons only, and that its purpose is to protect citizens inside the Green Line.

According to the decision, from December on, Palestinian workers who enter Israel for work in Greater Tel Aviv and in the Sharon region will have to return to the West Bank via the Eyal checkpoint, and they will not be allowed to return on buses traveling to Ariel on the Trans-Samaria Highway.

The employee of the defense minister’s bureau said, “The decision will not prevent Palestinians from going to work and continuing to make a living. No one is stopping the Palestinians from continuing to work inside Israeli territory and reaching their destinations. The opposite is true. This is purely a security-related matter, and its purpose is to supervise the entries and exits into Israeli territory, thereby reducing the chances of terror attacks inside Israeli territory.”

The employee said, “The entry and exit of Palestinians who have permits to come to Israel, on a daily basis, will take place through the same crossing point and will enable supervision and control. In this way, the security establishment will be able to have control over those who enter and leave, and prevent a situation in which Palestinians remain in Israel illegally instead of returning to their homes, to the point where there is a danger of terror attacks. This is a mechanism that is supposed to reduce the presence of illegal residents and reduce the risk of terror attacks while allowing Palestinian workers to continue to make a living in Israel. This is something that every sovereign state does to protect itself.

“We should remember that in the past, illegal residents perpetrated severe terror attacks inside Israel. It is obvious that Haaretz has an interest in portraying security matters such as these in a distorted and falsified way, but despite that, we must reduce the risk of terror attacks as much as possible without keeping the Palestinian workers from being able to work.”

Right-wing officials welcomed Ya’alon’s decision. MK Moti Yogev of Habayit Hayehudi wrote in a statement: “The defense minister and the defense establishment understood the suffering of the residents of Samaria, who lost their public transportation, in essence, and they are working now to provide another solution that will regulate both the transportation of the Palestinian workers and restore public transportation to the Jewish residents and communities of Samaria.”

Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On condemned the decision, saying, “Not only has Defense Minister Ya’alon destroyed our relations with the United States; now he is also destroying our relations with the entire democratic world. This is an official, governmental stamp of approval for a policy of apartheid in the territories. Segregation between Palestinians and Jews will only entrench Israel’s status as a pariah state in the world.”

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