Beginning this week, the Israeli Transportation Ministry will operate buses in the West Bank that appear to be designated as "Palestinian-only," a development that has led some activists to allege racial discrimination.
The bus lines, operated by the Afikim bus company, will begin operating an apparently Palestinian-only service from West Bank checkpoints to Gush Dan, according to Haaretz.
A ministry statement claims "the new lines will lessen the burden that has formed on buses as a result of the increase in numbers of working permits provided to Palestinians," Haaretz reported. The statement went on to say the buses will "contribute to the improvements of services, for the betterment of Israelis and Palestinians as one."
However, while the new buses may technically be classified "general bus lines," advertisements for the service have only appeared in Palestinian villages, according to Ynet.
A driver for Afikim told Ynet that although legally there was no way to prevent Palestinians with the correct documentation from boarding buses, "starting next week, there will be checks at the checkpoint, and Palestinians will be asked to board their own buses."
"Obviously, everyone will start screaming 'apartheid' and 'racism' now," the driver continued. "This really doesn’t feel right, and maybe (the ministry) should find a different solution, but the situation right now is impossible."
Haaretz added that watchdog groups, including Machsom Watch, have documented an "ongoing" trend of Palestinians being forced to leave buses traveling to Israel, for no apparent reason.
Israeli human rights group B’Tselem was quick to criticize the government's plan, according to RT.
“The attempt at bus segregation is appalling, and the current arguments about ‘security needs’ and ‘overcrowding’ must not be allowed to camouflage the blatant racism of the demand to remove Palestinians from buses,” B’Tselem executive director Jessica Montell said.