Israel Police Chief Dubs May Riots 'Intifada,' Sparks Uproar in Knesset

Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, this month.
Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai, this month.Credit: Moti Milrod

The riots within Israel during the country's fighting with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in May were an "intifada" that ended swiftly with “zero dead and minimum measures” used, Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai told the Knesset Public Security Committee on Monday. 

MK Ahmad Tibi (Joint List) asked him to retract the claim that "zero" had died and Shabtai rephrased his words and said: “There was an intifada here with zero dead on the part of the security forces.” Tibi responded: “You said something serious. That’s how you relate to Arab deaths.”

Tibi and MK Osama Saadi (Joint List) were enraged over Shabtai’s use of the word intifada, and Shabtai responded: “An uprising of this type, in these places: this is the name it needs to be called, intifada. Considering the gravity of what took place, it is the name it should be called. Let’s not sanitize it with other words.”

The committee also erupted after Shabtai asserted during his presentation that the “Disturbance was a result of expanding inequality and the increase of gaps in society.” Shabtai said the “internal threats were not less dangerous than the external threats.” Lawmakers participating in the session were outraged and MK Orit Strock (Religious Zionism) said Shabtai was “like a dog returning to its own vomit,” while MK Yitzhak Pindrus (United Torah Judaism) said “this sentence invites an intifada.”

Public Security Minister Omer Bar-Lev admitted that the Arab riots during Operation Guardian of the Walls “were a strategic surprise for the police and Shin Bet," which saw an "overlapping between crime families and nationalist incidents.” Bar-Lev said that the riots were a “public challenge against law enforcement authorities, and an existential threat to the public security of Israel.”

Prison Service commissioner Katy Perry also participated in the meeting and commented on the escape of the six prisoners from the Gilboa Prison last week. “The actions being taken are establishing control, preventing copycats, and increasing deterrence. In order to achieve all of these I have established a team with the Yahalom unit that has been working since the incident together with professional staff and engineers, with the goal of going cell by cell and wing by wing over the prisons defined as red.” Perry added: “I am known for my determined policies and iron fist policy, and in this, too, will my policy continue.”

Israeli Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai and Prison Service commissioner Katy Perry at the Knesset Public Security Committee, on MondayCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The manhunt after the two remaining escaped prisoners continued on Monday, with security forces searching for them in two main areas: The Jezreel Valley in northern Israel and in the Jenin area in the West Bank.

Click the alert icon to follow topics: