Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday ordered the suspension of a controversial ban on Palestinians riding the same buses as Jewish settlers when returning from Israel to the West Bank.
The announcement came hours after the three-month pilot project approved by Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon began.
The ban was immediately attacked by rights groups and the opposition, who denounced it as an “unprecedented” move that heaped unnecessary humiliation on the Palestinians and would ultimately damage Israel.
Adding to tensions, a Palestinian driver rammed his car into two border policemen in annexed east Jerusalem, moderately injuring them, before he was shot dead by another officer, the Israeli authorities said.
A defence ministry official told AFP earlier that the bus ban would require Palestinians who work in Israel to return home by the same crossing without taking buses used by Israeli residents of the occupied West Bank.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians travel each day to work in Israel, mainly in the construction business, using travel permits each time they cross.
Such a ban, which has been demanded by settler groups for years on security grounds, would have significantly extended the Palestinians’ commute time.
But the move was quickly stopped by Netanyahu, an official in his bureau told AFP.
“The proposal is unacceptable to the prime minister. He spoke with the defence minister this morning and it was decided that the proposal will be frozen,” he said.
Under the measure, Palestinian commuters’ outward journey would remain unchanged but for their return trip they would have to board special Palestinian-only buses, which would drop them off at the same checkpoint where they crossed.