Palestinians look at burned tires in mosque 311.
(photo credit: Reuters)
When “price tag” incidents first appeared several years ago in the West Bank,
police took a rather submissive view of the phenomenon.
far-Right activists pioneered the actions in order to try and deter the state
from clearing illegal settlement outposts, declaring that every such demolition
would carry a “price.”
The actions were spontaneous and typically
involved roaming groups of youths targeting random Palestinian civilians who
happened to cross their path, as well as attacks on their properties.
2009, the activists grew increasingly bold, including the habitual setting fire
to Palestinian fields, throwing rocks at vehicles, and launching violent clashes
with the IDF and Border Police.
Two years later and the attacks have only
escalated. Today, the police’s lackluster approach to the issue has been
replaced with genuine alarm based on the recognition that with the growth of
radical forces and the chaos currently engulfing the Middle East, price tag
perpetrators are like a pyromaniac playing with a lighter in a gas-filled room.
Every spark has the potential to set off an explosion.
have become increasingly organized, calculated and daring, to the point that the
Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) views the far-Right cells behind the attacks
as operating like a terror organization whose members gather intelligence on
targets before striking.
In the past two months alone, two West Bank
mosques were targeted with arson and vandalism attacks and an IDF base was
sabotaged by vandals who left behind far-Right graffiti.
This week the
phenomenon crossed the Green Line, with an arson and vandalism attack on a
Beduin village in the Galilee where many residents serve in the army, sending
shock waves throughout the country.
Last month, during a meeting with
reporters, Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino expressed the police's new alarm
over price tag attacks, saying "These acts are so dangerous, and harmful on a
national level. They can result in an escalation, and this is the last thing the
Danino also expressed the growing frustration felt by
police and the Shin Bet over the fact that not a single indictment has yet to be
filed against a suspect for price tag offenses, despite several arrests over the
years. “I measure success in indictments.”
As none have so far
materialized, a new national task force made up of Judea and Samaria district
officers and detectives from the elite Lahav police unit has been formed and
ordered to track down the suspects and make charges against them stick.
Nevertheless, police are severely limited in their abilities to pursue these
The Judea and Samaria police district, which operates only in
Areas B and C of the West Bank, is made up of approximately 1,000 officers and
has 17 patrol cars in service during any given shift – a very small force in
comparison with the size of its jurisdiction.
The district also has
access to 2,000 Judea and Samaria Border Police who are under IDF command, as
well as soldiers from the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division.
the combined forces work in conjunction with the Shin Bet and the IDF’s Civil
Administration, with all agencies working as one organization under a 2007
arrangement by former Judea and Samaria police chief Cmdr. Shlomi Ka'atabi and
former IDF OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Gadi Shamni.
Yet, as the police
learned since putting these arrangements in place, relying on military backup
forces is useful for rapid responses to developments on the ground but useless
in carrying out proper investigations into price tag incidents that result in
charges and convictions.
The Shin Bet’s Jewish Division has been even
more frustrated by its failure to provide intelligence leading to
According to recent media reports, the suspects behind price
tag incidents have even learned not to bring their cell phones along to attacks
due to their awareness that the devices can be used to track their movements and
prove their involvement in incidents.
Nevertheless, police are more
confident than ever that the tide is about to change. With increased resources
made available toward tackling those behind price tag incidents, and with Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu breathing down the necks of security forces to get
results, there has never been more motivation to begin stemming the price tag