Israel’s revocation of segregated Palestinian buses: Good decision, bad rationale

Fear of what the world would say, not morality, motivated Netanyahu to backtrack on the decision to segregate West Bank buses.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

The revocation of the decision to not allow Palestinian workers from Judea and Samaria returning from work to travel on buses used by Israelis was the right decision. But it looks like it was taken for the wrong reason.

The reaction to be expected in the world to the demand that Palestinian workers should travel on separate buses should not have been the primary, and certainly not the sole, reason for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision. It is the moral standards to which we must adhere that should have been the reason. Separating passengers on public transportation according to their ethnic background violates our moral standards. What we think of ourselves is more important than what the world thinks of us.

There is no denying that there is a security problem, and that Israeli civilians on occasion feel themselves endangered. This is the result of frequent acts of terror committed by Palestinians against Jews. Too many buses have been blown up by Palestinian terrorists causing death and injury to hundreds of Israelis.

Palestinian taxi drivers have kidnapped and killed Jewish passengers. Not so long ago a Palestinian driver picked up three Jewish boys and murdered them. In Jerusalem Palestinian terrorists almost daily try to knife Jews and Palestinian drivers try to run down Jews in the street.

Does that mean that the way to protect Jewish passengers is to keep all Palestinians from using the public transportation available to Jews? Or that such passengers needing a taxi should be accommodated by being provided with one driven only by Jews? Is the solution to the security problems caused by Palestinian terrorists the separation of Jews from Arabs?

Separation is not the answer. It is morally wrong, and also destructive to Israeli society. Jews and Arabs have learned to live together in Israel to a point where separation between Jews and Arabs is both impossible and undesirable.

Palestinian workers from Judea and Samaria are coming to Israel daily because the Israeli economy needs them and the Palestinian economy benefits from it. The integration of Israel’s Arab citizens in Israeli society must be the aim of government policy, and improving the standard of living in Judea and Samaria is good for Israel and good for the Palestinians. Separation of Jews from Arabs even if limited to Judea and Samaria runs directly counter to this trend.

In Israel itself the integration of Arab citizens in society and in the economy is advancing year by year. There are Arab physicians in Israel’s hospitals, Arab professors at Israeli universities, Arab lawyers and accountants in the big law and accounting firms, Arab pharmacists in pharmacies in the major cities, and Arab taxi drivers throughout Israel. Nobody in his right mind would think of separating Jews from Arabs here.

The situation in Jerusalem is more complex. Many residents of local Arab neighborhoods work in Jewish-owned establishments throughout the city. Many of Jerusalem’s drivers of buses and taxis serving Jewish neighborhoods are Arab.

The recent spate of terrorist acts committed by Arab residents in Jerusalem has caused apprehension among some of its Jewish residents. But separation is not the answer. It is morally reprehensible, and undesirable in the eyes of those who want Jerusalem to remain a united city. Better security has to be achieved by increasing the manpower of the security services, the police and security personnel stationed at strategic locations in Jerusalem – not by separating Jews from Arabs.

Whereas in Israel Jews constitute the majority and Arabs the minority, the situation in Judea and Samaria is reversed: Arabs are the majority there. Some Israelis on the left want to uproot the 500,000 Jews living there. That would be the ultimate “separation.” “We are here and they are there” is their slogan.

But in this case, too, separation is not the answer. Neither separation achieved by transferring Jewish residents, nor separation on public transportation services. Our defense establishment should seek to provide security for all living there within the bounds of the moral standards in which we believe.



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