Illustration: Israeli border police stand ove
Illustration: Israeli border police stand ove Flash 90

MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home) visited the town of Elkana in Samaria (Shomron) on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the security problems posed by local bus lines used by both Israelis and Palestinian Authority residents. He was disturbed at what he found.

Locals had warned him that the bus lines allow PA residents to enter Israel illegally with virtually no effort. PA residents simply wait at the side of the road for an Israeli bus to pass, then get on and head for Tel Aviv or other Israeli cities, they said.

Bus drivers say the law prevents them from refusing to provide transport to any paying passenger – whether or not they have a permit to enter Israeli territory.

Ariel Weiss, the head of the local branch of Bayit Yehudi, took Yogev and others past the security fence that separates Highway 505 from the PA town of Azoun and back again to show them how easily PA residents can reach Israeli bus stops.

“We were a group of ten people, and we crossed the fence into Azoun and back out without encountering any obstacle,” a concerned Yogev said afterward. “We were not detained, the security forces did not even ask any questions.”

A group of Israeli women and girls met with Yogev to express their concerns over the situation. They noted that Israeli women are often the target of sexual harassment if they find themselves traveling with large groups of PA resident Arab men.

MK Yogev told residents of Elkana that he would do what he can to address the problem. As a first step, he said, 15 buses will be added in the near future to deal with the problem of overcrowding.

Weiss suggested that at least one bus line run between Israeli towns, without stopping along the highway. This would prevent illegal entry to Israel, he said, as PA residents without permits to enter Israel would be unable to enter the Israeli communities where the bus would gather passengers.

The proposed bus line would be significantly slower than existing lines, he noted, but could improve Israeli residents’ quality of life by significantly reducing harassment on buses and increasing personal safety.

The issue of illegal PA Arab workers hit headlines again last month, after off-duty soldier Tomer Hazan was murdered by an Arab coworker from the village of Bayt Amin, near the PA-controlled city of Kalkilye.

The murderer, Nadal Amar, was revealed to have been employed in the Israeli city of Bat Yam illegally, without the necessary permits, leading to angry demonstrations outside the restaurant at which he and Hazan had worked, as well as harsh condemnations from political leaders amid warnings of the dangers of hiring illegal Arab workers.