JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's attorney general said Tuesday he would ask the country's defense minister to explain his proposed order banning thousands of Palestinian workers from the Israeli public buses they ride back to their homes in the West Bank.
The proposed edict by Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, who has authority over security issues, comes after a request by Jewish settlers who ride the buses. It also comes amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians after this summer's Gaza War and other violence.
Every day, thousands of Palestinians enter Israel for work from the West Bank, territory Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war and which Palestinians want as part of their future state.
Yaalon's edict, first reported Sunday by Israeli media, is slated to take effect in December. Jewish settlers alleged that the Palestinian workers constitute a security threat and frequently engage in sexual harassment of female Jewish riders.
Yaalon's decision also would require the Palestinian workers to travel only through specific military checkpoints when returning to their homes.
Israel's Justice Ministry said Tuesday that Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein called on Yaalon to explain the directive by Nov. 9.
Yaalon's spokesman Ofer Harel said the measure was meant to ensure security. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem called the ban a discriminatory measure against the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, media reports surfaced that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected criticism of Israel's settlement policy in east Jerusalem and elsewhere, saying that such opprobrium was an impediment to peace.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded on Tuesday by saying "the fact remains that if actions are taken that are not conducive to peace, it makes it very difficult to not only return to a negotiation but to obviously reach a two-state solution."
Associated Press writer Lara Jakes in Washington contributed to this report.