Israel Rolls Out First Palestinian-Only Buses In West Bank



QALQILYAH - The first official Palestinian-only bus lines began service Monday morning.

According to Israeli daily Haaretz, the Israel's Ministry of Transportation said it has launched the special bus lines in order to avoid conflicts. The lines are for the Palestinian workers who travel each from the West Bank into and around Tel Aviv for work.

The normal bus lines go from the Jewish settlements in the West Bank to Israel. Since Palestinians aren’t allowed to enter the settlements where most of the bus stops are, they usually get on the bus at midway stops along the road.

The Ministry is not referring to the new lines as officially separated services, but as a solution to the needs of Palestinians, and only announced the buses by way of a distribution of flyers in Arabic.

The Afikim bus company has launched only two new lines for now. Both depart from the Eyal crossing, one towards the northern area of the Dan Agglomeration, north of Tel Aviv, and the other south of the city.

Two testimonies, two opinions

In an interview given to Ynet , A driver for the Afikim bus company said: “It’s obvious that now everybody will scream ‘racism’ and ‘Apartheid lines,"" the driver said. "It is truly an unpleasant solution and we have to find another one in the future. But for now, the reality is unmanageable and something has to be done.”

There are two main problems that make the reality difficult for both sides. The first and most obvious one is the recurring verbal and physical conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis that takes place on buses. The second issue is one to that both Palestinians and the Israeli officials are happy to resolve: unauthorized transportation services.

Halil is a Palestinian construction worker who travels each day from Hebron to the suburbs of Tel Aviv. This morning while he was waiting for the special bus, he said to a Haaretz reporter: “Every day, I have to wake up at 3 in the morning and walk to the crossing to take some "pirate" transportation that costs me more than twice as much as those new buses.”

He says that for the low monthly salary he gets he will now save the equivalent amount of a work day. This morning, the pirates weren’t allowed access to the crossing.

The Israeli Transportation Ministry released a statement Monday: “The new lines will help to reduce the overcrowded buses, and will benefit both Israelis and Palestinians. The ministry isn’t allowed to refuse access to someone from using public transportation.”

Haaretz noted another motivation for the new buses was to try to prevent Palestinian workers who go back home through the Samaria area where there are many Jewish colonies.

Ofra Yeshua- Layeth told Haaretz that Israeli police stop buses on many occasions in the Samaria in order to check the identification papers of the Palestinian workers. Sometimes they aren’t allowed back on the bus, and must walk home.

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Iran-Saudi Arabia Rivalry May Be Set To Ease, Or Get Much Worse

The Saudis may be awaiting the outcome of Iran's nuclear talks with the West, to see whether Tehran will moderate its regional policies, or lash out like never before.

Military parade in Tehran, Iran, on Oct. 3


LONDON — The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said earlier this month that Iranian and Saudi negotiators had so far had four rounds of "continuous" talks, though both sides had agreed to keep them private. The talks are to ease fraught relations between Iran's radical Shia regime and the Saudi kingdom, a key Western ally in the Middle East.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian has said that the talks were going in the right direction, while an Iranian trade official was recently hopeful these might even allow trade opportunities for Iranian businessmen in Saudi Arabia. As the broadcaster France 24 observed separately, it will take more than positive signals to heal a five-year-rift and decades of mutual suspicions.

Agence France-Presse news agency, meanwhile, has cited an unnamed French diplomat as saying that Saudi Arabia wants to end its costly discord with Tehran. The sides may already have agreed to reopen consular offices. For Saudi Arabia, the costs include its war on Iran-backed Houthis rebels fighting an UN-recognized government in next-door Yemen.

The role of the nuclear pact

Bilateral relations were severed in January 2016, after regime militiamen stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Amirabdollahian was then the deputy foreign minister for Arab affairs. In 2019, he told the website Iranian Diplomacy that Saudi Arabia had taken measures vis-a-vis Iran's nuclear pact with the world powers.

It's unlikely Ali Khamenei will tolerate the Saudi kingdom's rising power in the region.

He said "the Saudis' insane conduct toward [the pact] led them to conclude that they must prevent [its implementation] in a peaceful environment ... I think the Saudis are quite deluded, and their delusion consists in thinking that Trump is an opportunity for them to place themselves on the path of conflict with the Islamic Republic while relying on Trump." He meant the administration led by the U.S. President Donald J.Trump, which was hostile to Iran's regime. This, he said, "is not how we view Saudi Arabia. I think Yemen should have been a big lesson for the Saudis."

The minister was effectively admitting the Houthis were the Islamic Republic's tool for getting back at Saudi Arabia.

Yet in the past two years, both sides have taken steps to improve relations, without firm results as yet. Nor is the situation likely to change this time.

Photo of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in 2020

Riyadh's warming relations with Israel

Iran's former ambassador in Lebanon, Ahmad Dastmalchian, told the ILNA news agency in Tehran that Saudi Arabia is doing Israel's bidding in the region, and has "entrusted its national security, and life and death to Tel Aviv." Riyadh, he said, had been financing a good many "security and political projects in the region," or acting as a "logistical supplier."

The United States, said Dastmalchian, has "in turn tried to provide intelligence and security backing, while Israel has simply followed its own interests in all this."

Furthermore, it seems unlikely Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei will tolerate, even in this weak period of his leadership, the kingdom's rising power in the region and beyond, and especially its financial clout. He is usually disparaging when he speaks of Riyadh's princely rulers. In 2017, he compared them to "dairy cows," saying, "the idiots think that by giving money and aid, they can attract the goodwill of Islam's enemies."

Iranian regime officials are hopeful of moving toward better diplomatic ties and a reopening of embassies. Yet the balance of power between the sides began to change in Riyadh's favor years ago. For the kingdom's power has shifted from relying mostly on arms, to economic and political clout. The countries might have had peaceful relations before in considerably quieter, and more equitable, conditions than today's acute clash of interests.

If nuclear talks break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive.

Beyond this, the Abraham Accord or reconciliation of Arab states and Israel has been possible thanks to the green light that the Saudis gave their regional partners, and it is a considerable political and ideological defeat for the Islamic Republic.

Assuming all Houthis follow Tehran's instructions — and they may not — improved ties may curb attacks on Saudi interests and aid its economy. Tehran will also benefit from no longer having to support them. Unlike Iran's regime, the Saudis are not pressed for cash or resources and could even offer the Houthis a better deal. Presently, they may consider it more convenient to keep the softer approach toward Tehran.

For if nuclear talks with the West break down, Iran's regime may become more aggressive, and as experience has shown, tensions often prompt a renewal of missile or drone attacks on the Saudis, on tankers and on foreign shipping. Riyadh must have a way of keeping the Tehran regime quiet, in a distinctly unquiet time.

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