Ya'alon: Putting Palestinians, Jews on Same Bus in West Bank Guarantees Terror Attack

Defense minister tells MKs his plan for separate buses for Palestinians was not due to settler pressure, though IDF says there's no security risk.

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Palestinian and Israeli passengers board a bus to the West Bank settlement of Ariel on October 26, 2014.Credit: Moti Milrod

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Knesset on Wednesday that continuing to allow Palestinians to ride buses in the West Bank with Israeli Jews, including soldiers, guaranteed a terror attack.

"You don't have to be a security official to understand that when there are 20 Arabs on a bus with a Jewish driver and two or three passengers and an armed soldier, that's a guarantee of a terror attack," he told Knesset members Wednesday, in response to a question from MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) about the Haaretz report.

Ya'alon's proposed method of keeping Palestinians and settlers from riding the same buses heading from Israeli cities within the Green Line into the West Bank, he said, is an Israeli pilot program to keep Jews and Arabs on segregated buses by creating Palestinian-only bus lines.

He said integrated buses are a security risk, though he denied a Haaretz report from earlier this week saying the Defense Ministry has issued a directive banning Palestinian workers from traveling on Israeli-run public transportation in the West Bank.

"I did not ban Arabs from traveling in Judea and Samaria, and there is no plan to ban them from traveling on public transportation in Judea and Samaria," Ya'alon said.

The defense minister said he decided on the pilot program in January, but the idea was just getting off the ground now, "because it takes time."

Military officials have said they do not consider it a security risk for Palestinian workers to ride buses with Jews into the West Bank. But Ya'alon denied charges in Haaretz that settler pressure was behind the plan to keep Palestinians off existing buses in the West Bank.

"These are not political considerations, but security considerations," said Ya'alon.

GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon has said Palestinian passengers are not a security threat because before they board the buses to the West Bank, they must have obtained pre-approval from the Shin Bet security service and Israel Police. They then undergo body checks at the border crossings heading into Israel. Alon also noted that terror attacks within the Green Line, like the murder of soldier Eden Attias, were carried out by those without permits, not by authorized workers.