Ya'alon Vows to Revive Plan to Segregate Israelis, Palestinians on West Bank Buses

Defense minister insists only security considerations were behind the controversial plan, which was scrapped within hours of launch following widespread criticism.

Amos Harel
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Palestinians boarding a bus at the Eyal checkpoint between the West Bank and Israel, 2013.Credit: Moti Milrod
Amos Harel

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon did not withdraw his support in a plan to tighten supervision of Palestinians traveling from the West Bank to Israel. The first stage of the plan, which was described as a "pilot," included the enforcment of separate Israeli and Palestinian bus travel in the West Bank.

The implementation of the plan's first phase was suspended by Ya'alon and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu less than a day after it was launched following widespread local and international criticism after a report by Haaretz on Tuesday.

In response to the criticism, Ya'alon said Wednesday that the only goal of the plan was to ensure security – and not segregation between Jews and Palestinians. 

"There is no segregation between Jews and Arabs on public transport in Judea and Samaria," Ya'alon said on Tuesday. "There has been no discussion about [segregation] and there has been no decision about it."

The program, launched Tuesday, stipulated that Palestinian workers would have to return from Israel to the West Bank via the same checkpoint they left and will not be allowed to ride Israeli bus lines.

"What we began this week was a pilot at four crossing points in Judea and Samaria, in which we check workers entering Israel and when they exit," the defense minister added. "Every well-functioning country, and particularly one in the sensitive position that we are in, has the right to check those who enter or leave its borders.

"That's what we're talking about and nothing else."

The plan was announced by Ya'alon a year ago as a means of reducing and controlling the movement of Palestinians entering Israel illegally. Such Palestinians have been blamed for most of the terror attacks in Israel in recent years.

Ya'alon has not given up, however. He intends instructing the IDF Central Command and the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to come up with a new plan covering all 13 crossing points on the Green Line. Substantial infrastructural work will be necessary to prepare the additional crossing points.

Netanyahu was aware of the plan in its early stages but was not informed of the intention to implement it this week and was surprised to learn of it from the media. He spoke with Ya'alon and the two decided, apparently at the initiative of Netanyahu, to freeze the move.

They were of the opinion that the media coverage of the move, particularly in the foreign media, had created an unnecessary diplomatic stir for Israel and needed to be brought to an end.

Ya'alon has not given up, however. He intends instructing the IDF Central Command and the Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to come up with a new plan covering all 13 crossing points on the Green Line. Substantial infrastructural work will be necessary to prepare the additional crossing points.

In addition, the defense minister intends to improve the way in which he explains the plan, insisting that the only reason for it is security and not racial segregation between Israelis and Palestinians. He will relaunch the pilot once the necessary provisions have been made.

But the forceful international response to the plan, the strong reservations of the president and Netanyahu's own doubts make it unlikely that the plan will ever be implemented – whatever Ya'alon intends.

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