At the end of 2012, the Ministry of Transport decided to operate bus lines for Palestinians from the center of Israel to checkpoints in the West Bank. The decision followed an increase in the number of work permits granted to Palestinians, who began to ride buses in the West Bank used almost exclusively used by Israelis. The Ministry of Transport claimed that Israelis had complained of confrontations between Palestinian and Israeli passengers on public bus lines from the Tel Aviv and Sharon areas into the West Bank.
After this decision was made public, Yesh Din addressed the Minister of Transport, Yisrael Katz and the legal advisor to the Ministry of Defense, Attorney Mali Sitton, asking they clarify whether the authorities intend to implement a plan to establish separate bus routes for Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Yesh Din also called to refrain from such an illegal and immoral plan.
In the letter, Yesh Din argued that the plan appears to be one of racial segregation. “This public transportation plan is reminiscent of the legal arrangements introduced during dark periods and under racist and dictatorial regimes, which we would certainly not wish to reinstate or emulate,” the letter stated. “Apart from being immoral, the said public transportation arrangement, if it is approved and introduced, will constitute a violation of both Israeli and international law, and particularly of humanitarian law, human rights law, and even international criminal law,” the letter stated.
In March 2013, the Ministry of Transport began operating separate bus lines for Palestinians from the checkpoints throughout the West Bank to central Israel. At the same time, the Samaria Settler Council and local Israeli authorities in the West Bank launched an aggressive campaign to prevent Palestinians from using public transportation.
In October 2014, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon decided to change travel arrangements for Palestinian laborers, following demands of right-wing groups. Palestinian laborers from the West Bank who wanted to work in central Israel and the Sharon area entered Israel only through the Eyal checkpoint near Qalqilya. They were permitted to return to their homes through any of West Bank checkpoints. Many Palestinians thus chose to ride regular buses, used by many Israelis, which stop closer to their homes. Ya’alon instructed the Civil Administration to prepare legislation that would force Palestinians with entry permits into Israel to return to the West Bank solely through the Eyal checkpoint, in order to prevent them from riding buses in the West Bank that serve Israeli citizens.
Yesh Din sent an urgent letter to the OC Central Command, Major General Nitzan Alon, and to the legal advisor for the Judea and Samaria Area, Colonel Doron Ben Barak, urging them to inform the Minister of Defense that his request cannot be carried out. The letter stated, “such an arrangement constitutes institutionalized discrimination based on ethnic and national origin that seeks to create segregation similar to the racial segregation that existed in South Africa and in the southern United States during the darkest periods experienced by these nations.”
On May 19, 2015, on the 34th Israeli government’s first day of work, it decided to start a three-month trial period for the plan of ethnic segregation of buses in the West Bank. The pilot was presented to the public as an alleged matter of choice, and in order to inform Palestinians of their new privilege, flyers were hung from all the West Bank checkpoints [attach photo of flyer]. A day later, as a result of international and public criticism against the decision, the Prime Minister decided to shelve the plan.