Police asking for Shin Bet help as new Arab rioting predicted
The Israel Police are preparing for a renewed outbreak of rioting by Israeli Arabs in the coming weeks, based on two upcoming events - the first anniversary of the start of the intifada, including the rioting last year inside Israel, and the slated renewal of the Trans-Israel highway construction project, which will involve land expropriations near the Arab towns of Taibeh and Tira.
On instructions from Inspector General Shlomo Aharonishky, the police have prepared command and control centers as well as cadres of officers and patrolmen who would be called into action in case of violent demonstrations.
But the Israel Police are refusing to take responsibility for gathering intelligence or deterence and preventative measures in cases of public disorder resulting from nationalist motivations. The police says its responsibility for maintaining order doesn't cover such operations, adding that only the Shin Bet security service can - and must - provide the necessary intelligence in advance of the expected disturbances.
As part of the preparations for the response to demonstrations, an operation the police have dubbed "Measured Step," police chief Aharonishky has assigned six commands - Border Patrol commands on the northern border, the central district and the south, as well as the police and Border Patrol training schools and Border Patrol Headquarters - to various areas. Each command will have a senior officer, with the rank of a deputy commander as its leader, responsible for training for the expected disturbances in their respective areas. Each command will have a 300-strong police force, to be equipped with non-lethal weapons for this purpose.
The doctrine for putting down the disturbances has been changed since last year, with a preference for close-quarter confrontation over long-range use of rifles, which can harm innocent bystanders.
During the course of internal police discussions, the inspector general has been warning of expected disturbances in the vicinity of Baka al-Garbiyeh, when the Trans-Israel highway project reaches the area. The law allows the highway effort to expropriate land along the route of the road and to offer landowners compensation, whether financial or in the form of a dunam (1,000 square meters) for each dunam taken.
According to Shin Bet and police intelligence, however, representative organizations of Israeli Arabs are pressuring landowners into rejecting all offers of compensation. According to security service sources, these groups are preventing individuals from implementing deals already made, such as the uprooting of the olive groves at Ein Mahel, which is preventing the expansion of Upper Nazareth.
After a lengthy negotiation that began in the middle of the 1970s, the owners of the grove agreed to accept $1,800 per olive tree uprooted and moved to a new location, but the Arab groups have "nationalized" the issue of Ein Mahel and are trying to prevent implementation of the deal.
The issue has revealed a deep division inside the Public Security Ministry. Minister Uzi Landau is in favor of a vigorous, immediate action to evacuate the Ein Mahel area, while Aharonishky has taken a more moderate approach, prefering another effort at dialogue to solve the problem. The police chief would also like to postpone the construction of the Trans-Israel highway until after the coming month of memorial days for Israeli Arabs killed during last year's rioting.
The Shin Bet agrees that it is solely responsible for gathering intelligence on hostile terror activity, counter-espionage and political subversion among Israeli Arabs, but believes the police share responsibility for monitoring Arab organizations, as part of their effort to deal with public disturbances.
According to the Shin Bet, there is close cooperation between their branch headquarters in the north and the Northern Police District, where most of Israel's Arabs live. Northern Police District Commander Yaakov Borovsky is the brother of Haim Boro, a former senior Shin Bet official, who, at one point, was chief of staff for the head of the service. Aharonishky is backing Borovsky's position, which says that there is no point in preparing red lines of violence in advance; for example, the closure of the Wadi Ara road - a line, which, once crossed, would result in a full-scale, aggressive police response in case of a resumption of rioting similar to last year's.
A year ago, Aharonishky, as Tel Aviv Police District commander, investigated the decision by a sub-district commander to use rubber bullets on demonstrators in Jaffa. The officer argued that he had decided on the move after what he termed a "serious escalation" by the demonstrators - the burning of a Mifal Hapayis lottery booth.
The inspector general's policy is that better judgment should be used in discerning when maximum force is necessary and when restraint is the wiser course. The lessons of the October 2000 riots, including those learned after the fact during the course of the Or Commission judicial inquiry, are now being studied and assimilated by the police, under the leadership of the Deputy Inspector General Danny Brinker.
The police scenarios for both security and criminal incidents have been analyzed by a team headed by the head of the police's intelligence department, Deputy Commander David Cohen. Aharonishky, however, is not pleased with the performance of the intelligence department and is considering changing its structure and either turning it into a division headed by a deputy commander or returning it to the Criminal Investigations Department, along with strengthening the intelligence frameworks in the sub-districts.
Another initiative by Aharonishky, who took office at the beginning of the year involves the establishment of a third national investigations unit, along the lines of the serious crimes department, which, over the years, became the international crimes unit. The third unit, to a large extent, would handle the investigation of organized crime originating in the former Soviet Union. At an upcoming meeting of the security service heads, at Mossad headquarters, Aharonishky is expected to present the two main issues of concern to the Israel Police: organized crime and drugs.
There are 23,000 policemen on the national force, commanded by the inspector general, 17 commanders and 356 deputy commanders. Aharonishky is asking the treasury for an increased budget to enlarge the force by 40 percent, i.e., by 9,300 policemen.