Israel's Transportation Ministry has set up a number of bus lines for Palestinian passengers traveling between the West Bank and central Israel, YNet News reports.
While the ministry claims that the buses are for all passengers, it appears that only Palestinian villages have been told of their existence, sparking serious claims of segregation.
According to Ha'aretz, any Palestinian who holds an entrance permit to the State of Israel is legally allowed to use public transportation. However, the newspaper has previously reported on a number of incidents in which Arab passengers have been forced off of buses.
YNet News also spoke to several bus drivers, who claimed that under the new rules, due to start Monday, Palestinian passengers will be asked to leave the buses on mixed lines used by Jewish settlers.
Officially, the ministry claims the buses were only a result of crowding and tensions between Arab passengers and Jewish passengers. However, one source told YNet that security threats were also a consideration. According to Ha'aretz, pressure from Jewish settlers was a factor in the Transportation Ministry's plan.
Ha'aretz also reports that the new lines are in part being created in a bid to stop so-called "pirate" driving services that have sprung up to help Arab workers get into central Israel. These services often charged high prices and will presumably be put out of business by the new, cheaper lines.
The news has sparked considerable coverage in Arab media, with Al Arabiya asking if the area needed another "Rosa Parks moment" and comparing the situation to racial segregation in the U.S. On Twitter, the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg argued that the controversy over the lines showed West Bank settlements were "incompatible with democracy".
YNet spoke to one bus driver who seemed well aware of the controversy the plan would create, but seemed to say it was the only option. "Obviously, everyone will start screaming 'apartheid' and 'racism' now," the bus driver said. "This really doesn’t feel right, and maybe (the ministry) should find a different solution, but the situation right now is impossible."
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