Palestinian Violence in Jerusalem Won't Be Curbed by Doctrine of Force

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's stance is that what didn’t work with force will work with more and more force - but such a doctrine has yet to prove itself.

Nir Hasson
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The scene of an attack in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi
Nir Hasson

Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Jerusalem District Police Commander Moshe (Chico) Edri, who has just taken up the position, inspected the route of the light rail line in north Jerusalem on Wednesday. The tour started from the Ammunition Hill stop where the attack took place later that same day, to Shoafat and Beit Hanina, culminating in Pisgat Ze’ev.

For nearly three months now this area has been suffering from non-stop violence directed mainly at the light railway cars. In fact, since the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir on July 2, hardly a day has gone by when stones were not thrown at the train and the police have not succeeded in overcoming the problem. A dedicated unmanned aerial vehicle that has been enlisted to the task has also not managed in the meantime to put an end to the phenomenon.

Mostly the incidents have ended in no damage or a broken window, but the effect on Jerusalemites’ sense of security and the number of passengers on the train – the symbol of Jerusalem’s renewal – is dramatic.

“With full responsibility, I can say that I believe quiet will come to Jerusalem and is environs, and quickly,” the police commissioner promised.

The mayor added that he has confidence in the ability of the police: “The moment the police have the suitable tools I have no doubt that what you have said will happen,” he told Danino and the microphones. Danino promised significant reinforcement of high-quality police units for the city, who will bring the desired quiet.

This is not the first time since the disturbances broke out about three months ago that the police and the municipality are solemnly declaring the approaching end to the manifestations of unrest. Nor is it the first time the Jerusalem reality has slapped the law-enforcement and municipal authorities in the face. Seven hours after the statements were made, Abdel Rahman Al-Shaludi sped onto the passenger quay of the light railway, running over and killing Haya Zissel-Brown and wounding seven others.

The attack has brought to a boiling point the disagreement between the mayor and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch. Barkat believes that if the police were given sufficient means and if it were to act with sufficient force in the Palestine neighborhoods, it would be possible to suppress the developing intifada. This is the background to his attack on Aharonovitch two weeks ago, when he said that the minister is not giving the police the tools to deal with the violence in East Jerusalem.

In Barkat’s opinion, the stone-throwing violence gave rise to the terror attack. “This is an atmospheric attack that was born on the background of what is happening,” he said on Wednesday evening. He came to the scene of the incident from the other side of town on the border between Jabel Mukaber and the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, where a first attempt was made to launch a municipal surveillance balloon that will also transmit pictures to the police as a new means of dealing with the disturbances. Barkat is pinning hopes on the balloon and is planning to launch four more of them above the main areas of conflict.

“The idea is to create a new battle doctrine,” explains Barkat, “not to let the rioters reach the seam line and act but rather to receive a warning and get to them in the places where they organize, in their neighborhoods.”

He also called for more severe punishment of stone throwers and for a significant reinforcement of the police forces acting inside the Palestinian neighborhoods on a permanent basis.

Barkat’s new doctrine, the balloons and Danino will be tested in the coming weeks. It is already evident, however, that thus far the approach – whereby what didn’t work with force will work with more and more force – has not proved itself in Jerusalem.

The police have arrested more than 700 suspects, most of them during the night. About 300 of them have been indicted with serious charges and nearly all of them have been kept under remand until the completion of proceedings.

Precisely the popular and irrational nature of the disturbances – as manifested in the participation by teenagers and children as young as 8 years old in the riots – does not auger that application of additional force and more severe punishment will bring about the desired quiet.

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