In response to a pointed letter Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat sent to the Prime Minister blaming chronic violence in the capital on an abdication of leadership from the Ministry of Public Security, Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch shot back at Barkat Sunday.
In a statement, Aharonovitch took the mayor to task for not taking “the trouble to hold a conversation with me before” making the incendiary accusations.
“You quickly distributed the letter and gave media interviews of narrow political considerations,” Aharonovitch wrote. “I hope that in the future will act in a different way, businesslike and serious.”
Shortly after the minister’s retort, Barkat stood by his criticism, stating: “This may be difficult for [Aharonovitch] to hear, but a fundamental change is needed to stop the violence and the perception of Jerusalem. Instead of shirking his responsibility, this should lead to the minister doing what is required.”
On Friday, Barkat assailed the minister in the letter, which was also sent to other government officials and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino, for what some are calling Jerusalem’s “silent intifada.”
“The police and officers in the field cannot win without significant backing and the provision of means adequate to deal with the difficult challenges,” Barkat wrote in the missive. “Unfortunately, the minister of public security is not providing police in Jerusalem with the necessary means to beat the rioters.”
Barkat cautioned Netanyahu that “if this continued slippage of personal security in the capital is not stopped, we are likely to experience an expansion of the phenomenon into a general threat on all of the State of Israel.”
The conflagration of violence erupted following the June murders of the three yeshiva students in Hebron, the July revenge slaying of an Arab east Jerusalem teen, and the 50-day Operation Protective Edge, resulting in ongoing rioting throughout east Jerusalem.
In the letter Barkat requested that four “necessary steps” be taken immediately to finally quell the violence.
According to the mayor, these steps must include a significant reinforcement of special riot forces; special forces dispersed in known flashpoints; an increase in tactical intelligence to assist Jerusalem police take action against rioters; and harsher prosecution to close the “revolving door” of suspects who are arrested and promptly released.
The vast majority of attacks have involved rock, firebomb, and firecracker attacks against Jewish residents and homes in primarily Arab neighborhoods, including Shuafat, Isawiya, Abu Tor, E-Tur and Beit Hanina.
During the height of the violence, a Jewish resident was killed in Shmuel HaNavi after an Arab commandeered a construction excavator, an IDF soldier was shot at a bus station, three light rail stations were destroyed, and a French Hill gas station was nearly set on fire.
According to police, the total number of Arab arrests since July is approaching 1,000, with hundreds of indictments also being issued.
While commending Jerusalem police and acknowledging that they are doing the best they can “day and night,” Barkat said Aharonovitch’s abdication of duty has severely imperiled their ability to permanently put an end to the violence.
“These and other issues are the responsibility of the minister of Public Security, and [Aharonovitch’] ministry has not provided solutions that match the magnitude of the challenge to strengthen security and restore order and peace in Jerusalem,” the mayor wrote.
“Mr. Prime Minister, I request your immediate intervention in solving the crisis, because we are at a crucial and critical time,” he continued. “As mentioned, the riots in Jerusalem could be a sign of things to come, and expand to other cities and endanger the citizens of Israel.”
Meanwhile, Meretz leader Zehava Gal-On slammed the government for spending millions on private security companies to protect Jewish residents of east Jerusalem.
According to Gal-On, in the 2013 budget the Housing and Construction Ministry budgeted over NIS 56 million for such security, and spent NIS 85m., 50 percent more than planned. In 2014, the budget remained NIS 69m. and the ministry spent NIS 69m, and between 2008 and 2013 funding for security went up 220%.
"The crazy amounts, which the government is spending on a few thousand settlers who chose to live in the most explosive places, is similar to the annual budget for police in the city of Ashkelon," she wrote on Facebook.
Gal-On pointed to interviews Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu conducted with the foreign press in which he said he will not allow discrimination in where Jews or Arabs are allowed to buy houses.
“It’s interesting that the prime minister chose to rely on the claim that this is private property. Maybe he forgot that his government funds with money that is not at all private the armed militia that protects the Jews' right to be settlers,” she added.