Half a year has passed since the police intensified their presence in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Isawiyah, aimed at improving security and strengthening Israeli sovereignty there. Today it can be firmly established that the operation has failed. After one death, dozens wounded, thousands of fines, hundreds of detentions and thousands of sponge-tipped bullets and tear gas and stun grenades, it seems that violence in Isawiyah is only increasing and sovereignty has turned into nothing more than a show of force.
Every evening large, armed patrol units go into the neighborhood, disrupting the children’s studies and the residents’ routines as a form of collective punishment. In a statement Sunday, the police said the operations had brought about “a significant drop in the quantity of hostile actions, including the throwing of firebombs and rocks at civilians on the main roads and the outskirts of the village.” But in the months before the operation began and to this day, there have been no incidents of stone-throwing or firebombs outside Isawiyah; the violence has always been directed at the police operating within it.
In recent months, neighborhood representatives have repeatedly sought to reach an agreement with the police to bring calm and restore order, and each time the police have rebuffed or humiliated them. Last week things came to a head; after the arrest of a teenager on the grounds of the high school, the parents announced a school strike. After three days and the shameful detention of two parents’ committee members, the committee, school administrators and the police reached an agreement to end the strike. As confirmed on the WhatsApp group created for the school administrators and the police, the police promised not to operate near schools when students are arriving or leaving.
Less than 24 hours later, the police blatantly violated the agreement, with dozens of officers deployed near school entrances. All the police officers withdrew from the WhatsApp group. It seems that someone high up on the force decided not only to violate the agreement and the commitments by senior officers, but also to humiliate the moderate elements in Isawiyah. On Saturday night there were again serious clashes – which ended with 15 wounded, among them a policeman and an 8-month-old suffering from smoke inhalation. Once again videos posted online documented the police violence.
Given the failure, the violence and the gross violation of commitments, certain top officials must take responsibility. Acting Police Commissioner Moti Cohen, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, Shin Bet security service head Nadav Argaman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must call Jerusalem police chief Doron Yedid to order, tell him to stop the operation and resume fair and respectful negotiations with the people of Isawiyah. Any other conduct will likely lead to bloodshed.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.