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YNET, HAARETZ (Israel)

Worldcrunch

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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