Israel is once again on the brink of a broad military confrontation in the Gaza Strip. The rocket barrages fired by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Israeli cities, causing deaths and injuries, as well as the Israel Air Force strikes on Gaza, are moving both sides toward a war whose duration and cost, in human lives and in property, is unknown.
But even as the situation vis-a-vis the Gaza Strip deteriorates, violent protest is spreading in Arab towns and in mixed cities throughout Israel. The spirit of the events of October 2000 hovers over the confrontations between civilians and police, and threatens to once again undermine the delicate and fragile fabric of coexistence, and certainly the faint hope that a government could be formed based on Jewish-Arab cooperation.
Jerusalem, united in violence, marks bloody anniversary today. LISTEN
The violence was at its worst in Lod and Ramle, but it did not pass over Jaffa, Haifa and many other locations. Arab residents threw stones at Jewish homes, part of the new cemetery in Ramle was torched, and several synagogues were pelted with stones. During the night between Monday and Tuesday, Lod became a war zone: Young men vandalized everything they came upon and major roads in the city were blocked. The protest spread to Shamir Medical Center – Assaf Harofeh, where dozens of people rioted, threw stones and damaged equipment.
The reasons for the eruption of this violent protest are connected to a series of bad decisions made in Jerusalem during the month of Ramadan, which always is potentially calamitous: Setting up checkpoints at the Old City’s Damascus Gate, the clashes in Sheikh Jarrah, the stubborn insistence on holding the Flags March. Police Commissioner Yaakov Shabtai played a decisive role in all this, and his claim that the police had been “too soft,” points to a worrisome problem with perceiving reality.
But the police are being forced to deal with the symptoms of a much deeper problem that’s erupting these days – the reality of 54 years of occupation. In his desire to battle Palestinian nationalism, weaken it, and even make it disappear, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attacked and incited against Israeli Arabs in a criminal fashion. Instead of dealing with the problem, he preferred to exclude, discriminate against, Judaize and bring declared racists into the Knesset. This disastrous strategy is now blowing up in Israel’s face.
What is required, first of all, is to stop the escalation and calm things down. President Reuven Rivlin did the right thing by calling on Arab leaders to issue a decisive call against the unbridled violence. But this is not enough.
A responsible prime minister would have reined in the police, conducted a real dialogue with the Arab leadership, observed the status quo on the Temple Mount, not viewed mixed cities as places that need to be Judaized, announced a plan to invest in Arab society but most of all, would have stopped inciting. Netanyahu isn’t capable of this, which is why replacing him is more urgent than ever.
- The violence in Jerusalem started with children. Then the sirens began to wail
- Israeli politicians aren’t managing the Jerusalem crisis and Hamas wins big
- And then Hamas did two unexpected things
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.