Israel Opens First East Jerusalem Police Station - in a Palestinian Refugee Camp

The center, which will provide municipal and state services, is to serve as model for additional Arab neighborhoods in the capital

A view of the new police station at the entrance to the Shoafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, May 7, 2017.
A view of the new police station at the entrance to the Shoafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, May 7, 2017. Olivier Fitoussi

The Israel Police dedicated a new police station at the entrance to the Shoafat Palestinian refugee camp in East Jerusalem on Sunday.

The first police station in East Jerusalem, the new building is part of a broader plan to improve police services in the capital. According to the Israel Police, the emphasis of the Integrated Service Center, its official name, will be on providing services to residents rather than local law enforcement. It will house offices for municipal services and, in the future, branches of the National Insurance Institute and the Interior Ministry as well.

Similar centers in additional Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem are planned.

The dedication ceremony was attended by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Israel Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“The enforcement of law and order needs to exist in all parts of Jerusalem,” Erdan told the audience. “There is no better time to carry this out than when we are marking 50 years since the unification of our capital.”

The Shoafat refugee camp is considered one of the highest-crime areas of the city. Situated at the edge of Jerusalem, it is on the West Bank side of the separation barrier despite being part of the capital. After the barrier was built, Israel stopped providing most services to the camp.

In the absence of oversight, thousands of apartments in high-rise buildings went up, without adequate infrastructure or engineering approval. Several attempts have been made in the past two years to restore municipal services. Underground water pipes have been laid and a number of roads paved, but residents still complain about inadequate trash collection, the prevalence of illegal guns and heavy drug abuse and trafficking.

Local figures who took part in the ceremony welcomed the new station, but there were some dissenting views as well. One resident, who asked that only his first name, Ismail, be used, said many people think the true purpose of the center is to cut off residents from Jerusalem.

“It’s all politics. They don’t want people to go to Jerusalem so they are opening a post office and a police station and city hall,” Ismail said. “We want the police to impose order and arrest the drug dealers but so far we haven’t seen them do anything.”

Last week, residents of the refugee camp and leftist activists from Jerusalem demonstrated to protest the lack of progress in the investigation of the assassination, one year ago, of Baha Nabata, a leading social activist in the camp.

Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich, second from left, and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, in suit, at the dedication of the station, or Integrated Service Center, at Shoafat, May 7, 2017.