Israeli soldiers check cars at a checkpoint near the West Bank City of Jericho.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, responding to accusations that he called for separate buses for Israelis and Palestinians going into communities past the Green Line, told the Knesset on Wednesday he only was seeking increased security.
“When there are 20 Arabs on a bus and only a Jewish driver and a few Jewish passengers, it’s guaranteed to be a terror attack,” he said, stressing that he had called for an extra stage of security checks for Palestinians going from Israel back to their homes in the West Bank.
The controversy began on Sunday when a security source told the media about the security program, yet to be put in place, which would require Arab laborers to head home at night through the same IDF checkpoints from which they entered. Technically speaking, Palestinians could continue to use Israeli buses on either side of the barrier, but the edict would make it very cumbersome.
The decision was taken “solely due to security considerations and would not prevent Palestinians from going out to work or making a living,” another security source said.
“No one is preventing Palestinians from continuing to work in Israeli territory and heading to where they wish. On the contrary.”
The security source further explained that “Palestinians authorized to enter Israel would do so through a single passage in order to prevent a situation in which Palestinians stay in Israel illegally instead of returning to their homes.”
Currently, Palestinian workers are checked only when entering Israel, but not when returning home, which security sources said increases the chances for terrorist attacks.
Sarit Michaeli of the rights group B’Tselem told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that West Bank Palestinians who arrive in Israeli cities and towns to work must pass a rigorous security check before receiving a permit, so it is hard to imagine that they pose a threat.
“I think that it is very disingenuous to speak about it as a security issue,” Michaeli said.Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.