JERUSALEM: The Israeli defense minister’s decision to segregate Israelis and Palestinians on West Bank buses sparked an angry rebuke Wednesday, with critics saying it constitutes a form of Apartheid.
Moshe Yaalon launched the three-month pilot program following repeated complaints from Jewish settlers who ride on the buses.
Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel for work each day from the West Bank and often return home alongside Jewish settlers. According to the new edict, in order to better track the movement of Palestinians, the laborers will now have to return to the West Bank through the same checkpoint they entered and will not be allowed to ride back alongside Israelis.
Jewish settlers allege the Palestinian workers constitute a security threat and frequently engage in sexual harassment of female Jewish riders.
Critics lashed out Wednesday against the proposed segregation.
“The separation between Palestinians and Jews on public transportation is an unnecessary humiliation and a stain on the face of the country and its citizens,” opposition leader Isaac Herzog wrote on his Facebook page. “It adds unnecessary oil to the bonfire of hate against Israel in the world.”
Zehava Galon, leader of the dovish Meretz party, went further, saying “this is how Apartheid looks.”
Meanwhile, a Palestinian attacker in a vehicle ran over two police officers in Jerusalem, police said.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says the attack took place in a neighborhood in east Jerusalem. He said officers on the scene opened fire at the attacker and wounded him critically. The two police officers were lightly wounded and evacuated to a hospital.
Israel has seen several isolated vehicular and stabbing attacks in Jerusalem in recent months, raising fears of a renewed wave of Palestinian violence like the one that gripped the country a decade ago.