How to Avert an Intifada

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Protesters hurl stones at police forces Kafr Kana, November 8, 2014.Credit: Gil Eliahu
Amos Harel
Amos Harel

In Anata, a village north of Jerusalem, a joint operation of the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Police was conducted on yesterday to arrest Palestinians likely to be connected to terrorist activity.

Anata, like the Shoafat refugee camp, where the terrorist who mowed down pedestrians with his car last week lived, is in a sort of no man’s land. The village is cut off from Jerusalem by the security barrier, but is located in a region where neither the police nor the IDF operate much. As a result, violent criminal activity flourishes, and sometimes it evolves into terror attacks.

During yesterday’s operation, an undercover Jerusalem district police force surprised two suspects while they were meeting. One suspect tried to flee, but the cops were able to seize him. The other pulled out a pistol, but the police didn’t lose their cool. They pointed their weapons at him and in the end he dropped the gun and surrendered.

This incident in Anata, coming less than 48 hours after the police shooting in Kafr Kana, proves that the results of such confrontations are very dependent on the conduct of the policemen and soldiers involved. When viewing the security video from Kafr Kana one gets the impression that the shots were fired in contravention of open-fire regulations. Hamadan indeed threatened the policemen when he rushed at their patrol car with an object that looks like a knife, but he was shot when he had already turned his back and had moved away from the car. It isn’t clear if the policemen fired in the air, as the police officers claimed. Nor is it clear why the policeman didn’t aim at the perpetrator’s legs to neutralize him, rather than at his upper body.

At first glance, there seems to be a professional problem in the way the police team handled the incident. But claims in the media about cold-blooded murder seem excessive. Seconds earlier, Hamdan was acting dangerously wild. It’s hard to ignore the sense of danger policemen might feel under such circumstances, even if they acted improperly.

Whether the wave of violence that began in Jerusalem and is expanding to Arab communities in Israel following Hamdan’s death will spread further will be decided by how each such incident is handled. There are complex interactions between events in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and within Israel. The second intifada that began in September 2000 erupted at the Temple Mount, spilled over into the territories and in October led to violent riots by Israeli Arabs in which 13 Arab demonstrators were shot dead by police.

Politicians are fanning the flames

It seems that the police and army are making efforts to control and monitor their forces to prevent additional funerals. They aren’t getting much help from Israeli ministers and MKs. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose to respond to Hamdan’s killing by threatening to expel Arab citizens who express support for Israel’s destruction. Some of his ministers seem to be competing for who can make the toughest, most bellicose declarations toward the Palestinian Authority. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has done his share of ranting recently regarding the Temple Mount.

But a visit with IDF Central Command headquarters yesterday paints a different picture of relations with the PA than the simplistic one presented by Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and other ministers. According to military officials, security cooperation with the Palestinians is continuing as usual in the West Bank. In fact, the army notes significant efforts by the PA to prevent clashes with the IDF, for example, by blocking marches aimed at provoking confrontations with the army.

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