JERUSALEM(2000-2017) | GOVERNMENTALITIES OF INFRASTRUCTURE |Reorganization of Public Transport


In 2004, a plan to reorganize Palestinian public transport carried out by the Israeli Ministry of Transport in cooperation with Palestinian transport companies is considered as another example of the governmentalization process through urban infrastructure. Noticeable evidence can be seen as in the late 1990s, 80% of the daily trips of Palestinian public were operated by informal transport; after 2004, the number shrunk to only 16% and Israeli-affiliated transport system serves more than 85% of Palestinian passengers.[1] The original public transport in East Jerusalem that mainly rely on unauthorized drivers have been transformed into a new normative system which is almost fully integrated and regulated by the Israeli state apparatus.


In the late 1980s, as a result of neglect and lack of governmental support, the Palestinian public transportation system was already suffering from a lack of demand and losing its dominance in urban space.[2]The later outbreaks of national strikes initiated by the Palestinian national resistance committees heavily reduced the number of passengers, causing vacuum within the public transportation system which was soon filled up with vans, taxis and all kinds of informal transportation.[3] Military checkpoints deployed by the police to suppress riots further intensified the demand for informal transportation which was able to bypass these barriers by taking an alternative path. Informal transportation finally peaked in the late 1990s with 1245 vehicles making 15,000 trips per day. [4]


By the turn of the millennium, Informal transportation was already serving more than 80% of traffic in Palestinian central business district, causing serious traffic congestion.[5] The authorities were also receiving complaints about informal transportation related to the lack of safety standards, licenses and harassment of female passengers. It was at the time that the authorities were becoming alerted and started to think about schemes to intervene in the system. [6]The reorganization plan for the Palestinian public transport was thus initiated by the Israeli Ministry of Transport to eliminate informal unauthorized transport, improve the service standards and to reconstruct the administration and spatial functionality of the system. To achieve these goals, a series of professional procedures were carried out: new bus routes were planned and central bus stations were remodelled; technical, legal and safety operational terms were set; fares, subsidies and licensing of the operator were refined; and the whole plan was marketed to provide higher standards of service for local users.[7] The governmental rationalities behind these operations reveal how through mapping, regulating and normalizing activities, knowledge is implemented in the process of establishment of new government-space-population relationships aiming to gain broader control over the circulation of the population in space. Adopted by the state apparatus, these governmental tactics also contribute to restructuring Palestinian population and space as both objects and subjects of Israeli administrative and governmental order.[8]


Although the governmentalization of the transport system was mainly imposed by the Israeli administrative, the methods during the process of reorganization as well as the outcomes were also shaped by Palestinian actors and their resistance. Confrontations and disagreements were frequent. When the planners from Israeli Ministry of Transport proposed the unification of 17 companies into one entity to increase efficiency and control of the transport system, it was refused by the Palestinian companies as business autonomy would be sacrificed.[9] Although Palestinian companies were able to obtain a stance during negotiations in early stages, they were made adapted to Israeli administrative and legal norms during the operation. For instance, during the reorganization, service training was made compulsory for every Palestinian driver to calibrate their behavior and customs. Palestinian companies were made to adopt and obey strict financial regulation under the supervision of Israeli Ministry of Transport.During the reorganization of public transport, the role that Palestine played in earlier stages as an autonomous actor inevitably shifted to one in which they integrated into, the Israeli administration.


Table 1. Formal/Informal transport in East Jerusalem 1998-2015


Fig 1. Informal Transport in Jerusalem


Fig 2. Military Checkpoints

Fig 3. Promotion of new transportation systems after the reorganization of public transport.



  1. ACRI. (2015). East Jerusalem 2015: Facts and Figures. The association for civil rights in Israel. Figures-2015.pdf.

  2. Anderson, J. (2008). From empires to ethno-nationalconflicts: A framework for studying ‘Divided Cities’. Working Paper No.1, Conflict in Cities and the Contested State Program papers.
  3. ibid.
  4. ibid.
  5.  Elden, S. (2007). Governmentality, calculation, territory. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 25(3), 562e580.

  6. ibid.
  7. ibid.
  8. Graham, S. (2000). Constructing premium network spaces: Reflections on infra- structure networks and contemporary urban development. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 24(1), 183e200.

  9.  ibid.

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