WASHINGTON (JTA) — Three American Jewish organizations said they would press Israel’s government to distance itself from a plan that would keep Palestinians off some Israeli buses.
The decision came in response to an Israeli Labor Party affiliate’s appeal asking several pro-Israel groups to take such action.
“Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has decided to forbid Palestinian workers, who work in Israel, to ride buses which also serve Jewish civil population in the West Bank,” said the letter sent Wednesday by Young Israeli Labor to a number of U.S. pro-Israel groups.
“This unfortunate decision is a disastrous one in any respect,” said the letter. “Apart from being a severely miserable decision in every moral aspect, it also adds a very powerful weapon to the arsenal of those seeking to undermine Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”
Yaalon has said he favors such a plan to prevent terrorist attacks, although Israeli military officials say the risk of attacks by vetted workers is low. The defense chief has also said that he has yet to give the order for the segregation.
Three groups have responded positively to Young Israeli Labor: the Anti-Defamation League, which said it was making private overtures to Israel’s government; J Street, the dovish Middle East policy group, with a Twitter campaign run by its university affiliate, JStreetU called “Pray With Your Tweet,” or #PWYT; and the Reform movement through a statement from Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who noted that Israel’s attorney general opposes the proposal.
“Israel’s democracy is one of her greatest strengths, and we fear that Minister Yaalon’s proposal threatens that democracy,” Jacobs said.
Another of the organizations addressed in Young Israeli Labor’s letter, Hillel, said it “does not take positions on internal Israeli political affairs.”
This version adds comments from Hillel, which previously said it had not received the letter.