Newspaper article International New York Times

Israel Drops Plan to Divide Busing ; Barring of Palestinians from Routes to West Bank Is Criticized as Apartheid

Newspaper article International New York Times

Israel Drops Plan to Divide Busing ; Barring of Palestinians from Routes to West Bank Is Criticized as Apartheid

Article excerpt

A contentious plan introduced this week prohibiting Palestinians from riding on the same buses as Israelis was criticized as a form of apartheid.

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has abruptly shelved a pilot project that prohibited Palestinians from riding home to the West Bank on the same buses as Israelis headed to Jewish settlements.

The Israeli government's turnabout on Wednesday comes as it has been trying to address Western frustrations over the long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and as it has engaged in delicate efforts to head off a Palestinian attempt to have Israel suspended from the world governing body of soccer.

"These proposals are unacceptable to the prime minister," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Mr. Netanyahu. "He spoke to the defense minister this morning, and they decided to shelve the matter."

Just as the pilot project started, and ended, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, arrived in the region to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

When the Israeli news media reported on Wednesday that the three- month project had begun, opposition politicians in Israel joined Palestinians in denouncing it, dismissing the idea that security concerns justified the new policy. Some even said that it smacked of apartheid.

Criticism also emerged from some more conservative quarters. Israel's president, Reuven Rivlin, said the project "could have led to an unthinkable separation between bus lines for Jews and Arabs."

Such ideas "have no place being heard or said," Mr. Rivlin said in a statement.

They "go against the very foundations of the state of Israel and impact upon our very ability to establish here a Jewish and democratic state," added Mr. Rivlin, whose voice carries significant moral weight though his position is largely ceremonial. …

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