It seems the right hand doesn’t know what the farther right hand is doing in Israel’s new government. An Israeli friend tells me this story reminds him of the “wise men” of Chelm!
A few hours ago, Defense Minister Yaalon announced with fanfare that he was implementing a three-month “study” that involved forbidding Palestinian workers in Israel from riding buses with Jewish settlers. It’s worth noting that even Rosa Parks could ride on the same bus with whites during the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Israel wouldn’t even permit this level of racial ‘mingling.’
The plan had been discussed and advocated by the settlers and government ministers for at least two years. Clearly, with the new cabinet being the most radical in Israeli history, this apartheid bus plan had the full support of the entire government.
But apparently, Yaalon didn’t get all his Likud ducks in a row. Former minister Gideon Saar, no liberal he, tweeted that the bus plan created a severe image problem for Israel in the world and that the plan should be stopped forthwith. I’m guessing the prime minister may’ve also heard from Pres. Rivlin, who seems to be what’s left of Likud’s moral conscience.
At any rate, only a few hours after the apartheid bus plan was announced, it was scrapped by order of the prime minister. The suspension happened precisely at the same time the new deputy defense minister was introducing and defending it in the Knesset! Go figure.
Please, don’t let’s hear from our liberal Zionist friends shouting a Huzzah for democracy and the triumph of reason. The suspension is no victory for anyone. Everyone knows that apartheid buses are what the government wants and will eventually get. The time wasn’t right in this instance. But next time, Bibi and Yaalon will do the spade work and ram this sucker down everyone’s throats. And the world be damned.
I also guessing there is sensitivity on the part of some in Likud that at the same time as its introducing the most extremist government in the nation’s history might not be the most appropriate time to highlight the more racist, incendiary plans the government has in store. Better to have a cooling off period to let the world get used to the new government before going whole hog on that score.
I’m amused by liberal Zionist journalists like Anshel Pfeffer who claim the bus plan was a “screw-up” brought on by a strident, powerful settler movement. This obscures the fact that this government IS a settler government. It is all settlers, all the time. It exists to serve settlers. Without them it would have no rhyme of reason. This was no screw-up. They knew exactly what they were doing. But the optics and timing turned bad and the plan was shelved temporarily.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.