Palestinian workers
Palestinians queue to board a bus from the Israeli army crossing Eyal, near the West Bank town of Qalqilya, into the Israeli city Tel Aviv Getty Images

Israel's attorney general is to review an order issued by the defence minister that would see thousands of Palestinians who travel to work in Israel banned from riding buses with Israeli settlers.

Israeli Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein has requested that Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon explain the issuance of the edict, according to Israel's Justice Ministry. He has requested an explanation for the order by 9 November, before the law is implemented in December.

The move would see West Bank Palestinians only allowed to return home to Israel using two Palestinian-only bus lines via the Eyal Crossing as opposed to the multiple crossings now available to the workers.

Yaalon's spokesman Ofer Harel said the order was issued because of concerns for the security of the settlers on the transport into Israel.

"There is no prohibition to travel on buses with Israelis," Harel said. "The only thing is that the workers will have to return through the same crossing they came through, in order for there to be oversight and to reduce the chances of attacks.

"But there is no prohibition to travel with Israelis and we are not prohibiting Palestinians from working in Israel."

The Israeli rights group B'Tselem criticised Yaalon's decision as "pandering to the demand for racial segregation" between Palestinians and Israeli settlers on transport.

The group's statement said: "Minister Yaalon is not content with merely moving Palestinians to the back of the bus, but means to keep them off buses altogether."

"It is time to stop hiding behind technical arrangements such as the demand that Palestinians return to the West Bank through the same checkpoint they entered Israel and admit this military procedure is thinly veiled pandering to the demand for racial segregation on buses."

The head of the Palestinian trade unions, Shaher Saad, compared the decision to "racist regimes" of the past.

Saad said: "The separation of bus lines was done in the past by racist regimes, and it should not be acceptable in this state."

Israeli settler Oren Hazan, from the West Bank settlement of Ariel, defended the decision because of security concerns and claimed Israeli women face "rampant" sexual advances of Palestinian workers on the transport into Israel.

He said: "If you go to the US border without a visa you would not be allowed to enter."