Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein on Monday demanded that Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon explain his decision to ban Palestinian workers from Israeli-run bus lines in the West Bank, following publication of a report in Haaretz.
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An official in Ya’alon’s bureau said on Sunday 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.”
A security official told Haaretz that the criticism was out of context. "There is no ban on taking buses with Israelis," the official said. "The only thing that will happen is that laborers who are citizens of the Palestinian Authority will need to return through the same crossing they left so there will be supervision of entry and departure like in any sovereign country that protects itself and takes care to admit foreign residents into its territory in orderly fashion, through arranged crossings."
Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber requested the clarifications from Defense Ministry legal adviser Ahaz Ben Ari, with Weinstein's knowledge. Zilber asked for a list of the facts and the considerations that led Ya'alon to his decision. Zilber also asked for the position of security officials, for the legal opinion Ya'alon had received prior to making the decision, and for an analysis of the alternatives.
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Tzipi Livini asked the attorney general to examine the legality of Ya'alon's decision. Livni told Weinstein that if the regulation was based on security risks, it was in fact legitimate. However, Livni quoted the Haaretz article, which posited that directive was made despite the opinion of military officials that allowing Palestinians to ride these buses poses no security threat, and that it was a move made in response to pressure from settlers.
"The segregation, which is not anchored in security needs, is liable to escalate to illegal discrimination," Livni warned.