As of last month it is unlawful for Palestinian workers to use Israeli bus lines, which travel across the occupied West Bank to the settlement of Ariel. Instead, they will have to stop at the Eyal checkpoint, miles away from their homes, and then continue on segregated bus lines to their jobs. In their returning journey they will have to commute from the checkpoint to their homes on their own. In November 2014, the Israeli Ministry of Transportation introduced separate bus lines for Palestinians. Afikim, the Israeli company operating these bus lines, has been holding an official segregation policy, facilitating, and promoting its enforcement on Palestinian land.
As of last month it is unlawful for Palestinian workers to use Israeli bus lines, which travel across the occupied West Bank to the settlement of Ariel. Instead, they will have to stop at the Eyal checkpoint, miles away from their homes, and then continue on segregated bus lines to their jobs. In their returning journey they will have to commute from the checkpoint to their homes on their own.
In November 2014, the Israeli Ministry of Transportation introduced separate bus lines for Palestinians. Afikim, the Israeli company operating these bus lines, has been holding an official segregation policy, facilitating, and promoting its enforcement on Palestinian land.
Last month, Moshe Ya’alon, the Israeli Minister of Defense, has officially decided to cut the Palestinians off public transportation on their way back to their homes in the West Bank. Palestinian workers will now be dropped off at the Eyal checkpoint, prevented from boarding Israeli buses that commute in the West Bank.
Generally speaking, bus companies such as Super Bus, Egged, Dan Public Transportation and Veolia have been directly profiting from the occupation by providing their services to settlements.
The company of Afikim provides public transportation services to West Bank settlements. In 2009, the company has purchased all lines of Dan Public Transportation that travel daily through settlements of Ariel, Ma’ale Adumim, Karnei Shomron and Barkan industrial zone.
The company has been holding an official racial segregation policy for the past 3 years, and has recently taken further steps to implement it on the ground.
Afikim bus number 86, established to serve settlers by connecting the settlement of Ariel to the Israeli city of Petach Tikva, was also used by Palestinian workers commuting to their jobs in the Tel-Aviv area inside the green line. However, in response to a campaign launched by the committee of Shomron settlers calling for racial segregation, the company created a new lower-fee line exclusively for Palestinian workers, luring them into their policy of segregation. On March 2014, more lines were officially established connecting the surrounding settlements around Qalqilya in the West Bank to Tel-Aviv and Petach Tikva.
This comes in accordance with Afikim’s CEO – Ben Hor Ahvat view that confirms this policy. In fact, in 2013 he publicly stated that “The Palestinians make their lives easy when they travel with us via the Cross Samaria Highway, which is meant for Israelis only”, and added “it is the authority of every driver to decide that a Palestinian is suspicious and to call the police”. He also explained the legal system applied in the OPT, which enables the company to practice this policy: “Within Judea and Samaria the situation is different as it is prohibited for Palestinians to enter Israeli communities without a permit from the security officer and an armed person accompanying them”.
Egged: Egged operates special bus lines and public transportation to almost all settlements, including remote outposts. The company owns a fleet of 45 armored buses, specifically designed and manufactured by Merkavim, which serves the settlements in the regional councils of Shomron, Gush Etzion, Mateh Binyaimn and Har Hebron.
In 2014 Egged purchased 152 buses that underwent European vehicle assessments [Euro 6 standard of emissions]. These new buses include the following manufacturers: 97 Mercedes OC500 intercity buses, 15 Man NG363 buses, and 40 Scania buses.
In July 2014, Egged launched six new lines commuting in and to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Two of the new lines are operating from the settlement of Neveh Daniel crossing the green line to Beit Shemesh and to the settlement of Kfar Etzion, while a third is running from Jerusalem to the settlement of Nokdim in Gush Etzion. In addition, Egged has launched two night lines, which are running from the settlements of Ofra and Kfar Etzion to and from Jerusalem. A final new line is running from Tel Aviv to and from Modi’in and passes through several Samaria settlements en route.
In addition to providing its services to settlements, Palestinian drivers have been protesting the unsecured working environment at Egged. In November 2014, twenty-seven Palestinian bus drivers quit their jobs and dozens more have gone on strike for fear of being attacked by Israeli settlers as tensions have increased in Jerusalem in recent months. This act came after driver Yusuf Hassan al-Ramouni was found hanged in an Egged bus in Jerusalem.
Veolia: Although its transportation lines are now owned by Afikim, Veolia remains involved in the light train through its shares in Citypass and Connex Jerusalem.
Superbus: This is another company that provides its transportation services daily to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Bus companies, being one of the most significant services to the settlement, are not merely sustaining transportation in the occupied West Bank but are an integral component of Israel’s de facto annexation of more Palestinian land, an annexation prohibited by International Humanitarian Law.