Jewish worshippers board a bus next to a section of the controversial Israeli barrier after visiting Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan was surprised mid-speech as he defended segregated buses for Israelis and Palestinians Wednesday, only to find out that the policy was put on hold.
Ben-Dahan took the stand in the Knesset to answer a query by MK Oren Hazan (Likud) about security arrangements on public transportation, when MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) told the Deputy Defense Minister about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s change in policy, which was made public shortly before the speech.
“I admit that I’m surprised by the suspension and say openly that I didn’t know and no one updated me,” Ben-Dahan admitted, pointing out that it was his first day on the job. “I think it is inappropriate to send me to give an answer without me knowing.”
Soon after, Ben-Dahan and Ya’alon’s offices discussed the incident, with the latter saying it was a mistake. A senior adviser to Ben-Dahan, Idit Druyan, said it was a result of “labor pains,” and that the minister and his deputy will work on coordinating better.
Still, another Bayit Yehudi source hinted that Ya’alon intentionally did not inform Ben-Dahan, saying: “The situation can make you understand why Ya’alon’s own colleague, Likud MK Avi Dichter, refused to serve as a second deputy in the Defense Ministry.”
Ben-Dahan defended separate buses for Israelis and Palestinians in the Knesset, even though the decision was suspended, saying: “This is not apartheid. Stop blackening Israel’s name.
“Unfortunately, we had difficult years and over 1,500 people were killed just because they’re Jewish and just because there are people who have a desire to murder Jews,” he added.
According to Ben-Dahan: “I didn’t say all Palestinians are terrorists, but I am saying all terrorists are Palestinians.”
Hazan tweeted after the reversal that “the public is confused, and so are we [in the Knesset],” and added eight minutes later: “Turns out the deputy defense minister is confused, too.”
In the plenum, Hazan said separating buses affects Palestinians, “some of whom are murderers and terrorists. Stop comparing them to Israeli Arabs!” According to the Likud MK, the plan was put on hold because of pressure from leftwing extremists, but that this government was elected to promote a right-wing agenda.
Still, Zandberg called the proposal “apartheid that cannot be hidden” and said Ben-Dahan should not hide behind security as an excuse and should join Ya’alon in stopping to give in to demands of “racist factors.”
Yesh Atid MK Ofer Shelah asked if it’s the Defense Ministry’s policy to “have a serious discussion, make a stupid decision, face all the international criticism and then cancel it?” “It turns out that despite the work done, two comments on Facebook by the former interior minister [Gideon Sa’ar] and others makes you cancel everything,” he added.