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Israel’s Controversial Buses Burn: Arson Suspected

By Phoebe Ryles
Epoch Times Staff
Created: March 5, 2013 Last Updated: March 5, 2013
Related articles: World » Middle East
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Fires broke out on two buses provided to transport Palestinian workers, police are investigating.

Palestinians sit in a bus as a new line is made available by Israel to take Palestinian worker from the Israeli army crossing Eyal into the Israeli city Tel Aviv, on Mar. 4 2013. Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel to work every day after receiving permits, many of them in private vans. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Palestinians sit in a bus as a new line is made available by Israel to take Palestinian worker from the Israeli army crossing Eyal into the Israeli city Tel Aviv, on Mar. 4 2013. Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel to work every day after receiving permits, many of them in private vans. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Two of the controversial buses that transport Palestinian workers from checkpoints in West Bank were set on on fire during the commute Tuesday morning, according to Al Jazeera. The buses were traveling from the Eyal Checkpoint.

“Two buses were apparently set on fire but we are looking into all possibilities,”  police spokeswoman Luba Samri told the AFP, according to Al Jazeera.

The new bus service began operating March 4 between the checkpoints in the West Bank and Tel Aviv amidst much controversy and confusion. According to Israel’s Transportation Ministry the bus service was put in place to make it easier for Palestinian workers to get to their jobs in Israel.  

The buses have been controversial because the decision to start a separate bus system was made after Jewish settlers complained there was a security risk if Palestinians were allowed to ride on the buses that run from the settlements to the checkpoints.

Protest erupted at the Eyal checkpoint on Monday when the new service started. The drivers of all public buses were instructed to park their buses outside city limits, according to Hayom, a Tel-Aviv based daily.

In an official statement yesterday the Israeli Transportation and Road Safety Minister Yisrael Katz said that the intention was not to created a segregated system, saying:

“Palestinians entering Israel will be able to ride on all public transportation lines, including all those already existing in the West Bank,” according to Yediot Aharonot, a Tel-Aviv based daily paper.

Drivers of the buses, operated by Afikim company say that Palestinians will be turned away from “mixed” buses, according to Yediot Aharonot.

While there are certainly complex security concerns in the West Bank that need to be addressed. Katherine Franke, Professor of Law at Columbia University questions the security concern. “If it is a security issue there are many ways to address this problem.  One is to segregate the buses, but another would be increase the number of security personnel on the buses,” Franke said.

The controversy around the buses comes from concerns that the policy may be enabling intolerant viewpoints.  “We shouldn’t be making public policy anywhere, not in Israel, not in the US, that encourages intolerance,” Franke said.

The Transportation Ministry has stressed that the new service is designed as a more convenient means of transportation for Palestinians working in Israel. Despite contention the new buses have been widely used.  Due to overcrowding the ministry has decided to double the number of buses in the new lines, according to Hyome.

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