Israel u-turns on bus ban for Palestinian workers
The apartheid-like bus ban caused widespread outrage. (File photo)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon have suspended a just-implemented decision banning Palestinians from using Israeli-run buses in the occupied West Bank.
"Netanyahu and [the] Defense Minister… have agreed to suspend the pilot program at the border crossings in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu spokesman Ofir Gendelman said on Twitter, using the Jewish term for the West Bank.
The announcement came hours after the Israeli civil administration implemented a decision banning Palestinian workers in Israel from using buses allocated for Jewish settlers coming and going to settlements in the West Bank.
According to Israeli Radio, the plan is aimed at reducing the risk ostensibly posed by Palestinian laborers working in Israel.
Under the terms of the plan, Palestinians in the northern West Bank working in Israel must pass through the Eyal checkpoint near Qalqilya, where they are subject to tight security screening.
In the past, Palestinians had used buses allocated for Jewish settlers to return to their homes in the West Bank to avoid security screening on the return trip.
"Every day I have to spend at least three hours at the Eyal checkpoint to go to my work at 7.30am,"Salem Jarrar, 36, told Anadolu Agency.
"I usually use Israeli buses to return to my home village near the West Bank city of Jenin," he said.
"Starting today, I have to go back from the same checkpoint and spend another three hours on my way back instead of 30 minutes," he lamented.
"It wasn't easy using settlers' buses, where you were subjected to harassment and racism," he added. "But it was the easiest way to return home after a hard day's work."
The Israeli authorities have issued permits to nearly 150,000 Palestinian workers from the West Bank allowing them to work inside Israel.
Some 500,000 Israelis currently live in more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built since Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967.
The Palestinians want these areas, along with the Gaza Strip, to establish their future state.
International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories," considering all Jewish settlement-building on the land to be illegal.
By Anees Barghouthy
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