Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu scrapped a proposed plan on Wednesday that would have prevented Palestinians from riding on buses in the West Bank alongside Jewish settlers. The pilot program would have required Palestinians who travel into Israel for work to return to the West Bank via the same checkpoints they entered and would have barred them from riding Israeli bus lines.
The plan, proposed by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, had come under fire not just from the opposition and human rights groups but from some backers of the settlements who felt it would unnecessarily tarnish Israel’s image abroad.
President Reuven Rivlin, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud Party, warned that it “could have led to an unthinkable separation between bus lines for Jews and Arabs.”
It is, after all, hard to counteract accusations of racism when you’re proposing a plan this reminiscent of one of the iconic policies of Jim Crow-era America. Yaalon has said that only security considerations were behind the plan and he has promised to submit a revamped version of it.
The plan is exactly the sort of thing expected from Netanyahu’s brand-new coalition, which is dominated by right-wing and religious parties. With a slim majority of just 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the coalition got off to a rocky start last week, with parties arguing over appointments until the last moment before it was sworn in. The swearing-in ceremony was delayed for two hours and met with heckling by the opposition. Netanyahu is still hoping to broaden the coalition, holding the position of foreign minister open for Labor leader Isaac Herzog, but Herzog seems to have no intention of helping Netanyahu out of the mess he’s created. “You did not create a government, you created a circus,” Herzog crowed just last week.
Even Likud’s own ministers, many disappointed that they had to give up prime appointments to the smaller coalition partners, are saying the government is unlikely to last the full four years. At this point it would be impressive if it outlasted the 26 months of Netanyahu’s last government.