Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 February 2019

A dark horizon for Palestinians

Attempts to segregate buses in West Bank foreshadow more racist legislation to come
An Israeli bus passes through the occupied West Bank. Jim Hollander / EPA
An Israeli bus passes through the occupied West Bank. Jim Hollander / EPA

The Israeli defence ministry’s latest attempt to segregate buses in the West Bank is a frightening peek into what the near future holds for Israel and Palestine. Citing security concerns, the Israeli military has for years unofficially separated Palestinians from Israeli settlers on buses in the West Bank through intimidation and harassment.

Given the strong connection between bus segregation and the American civil rights movement, Israel has been careful not to make this unofficial practice into law. Emboldened by the election of a right-wing parliament, however, the Israeli defence ministry this week announced a pilot programme that would turn segregation into official policy.

Fearing a widespread international backlash, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his authority to suspend the legislation yesterday. The timing was especially delicate considering that Mr Netanyahu found himself in meetings with Fifa president Sepp Blatter in a last-ditch effort to stop the Palestine Football Association from raising a proposal to have Israel’s national football team suspended from the world game.

This sequence of events is the new norm in Israel and Palestine. Israel’s new cabinet – the most right-wing in the country’s history – is built on a shared contempt of Palestinians and the two-state solution. From justice minister Ayelet Shaked’s characterisation of Palestinian children as “little snakes” to agriculture minister Uri Ariel’s flat assertions that “there won’t be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River”, the only conclusion is that the cabinet is united in its desire to deepen ­Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and block any deal. At the same time, Israeli intransigence on the peace process and racist posturing is generating widespread enthusiasm for global boycotts, as is clear from the upcoming Fifa vote.

Given the entrenchment of occupation, we can only expect this type of legislation to continue through the rest of Mr Netanyahu’s term in office. As the bus segregation programme demonstrates, the mask of Israel’s rule over the West Bank has truly come off.

Updated: May 20, 2015 04:00 AM