Palestinians hurl stones towards Israeli Border Police during clashes at a checkpoint between Shuafat and Jerusalem September 18, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The cabinet’s decision to approve looser rules of engagement for police in Jerusalem represents the start of a new approach to the sustained Palestinian rioting that has plagued the capital.
If used cautiously, the new guidelines - the stick - can help reduce levels of violence, but only if combined with a carrot - attempts by authorities to raise the quality of life for ordinary east Jerusalem Palestinians.
This is the very carrot and stick formula pursued by the IDF in the territories, an approach that has helped avoid the outbreak of a third intifada thus far.
The new rules of engagement aim to level the playing field between police in Jerusalem and the IDF in the territories. These now allow, for example, police snipers to shoot live, yet relatively weak rounds from Ruger rifles, at anyone hurling firebombs, rocks, or launching fireworks in a manner that places lives at risk.
Central Command soldiers have been using low caliber Ruger rifles for a long time to deal with life-threatening rioters. These means are justified and proven methods of quelling very violent and dangerous incidents, and saving lives.
But Central Command officers are also acutely aware of the pitfalls of misusing such techniques. One recent example of this awareness came in August, following a number of incidents in which Palestinians were shot.
In response, Central Command refreshed its existing rules of engagement in order to reduce the shooting of Palestinians.
Newly appointed OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Roni Numeh stressed that soldiers should only open fire only when their lives were in imminent danger, and that if the danger had passed, they should not fire.
The reason for the caution is obvious: A trigger-happy policy has the potential to inflame, not stabilize the situation, and could lead to an increase in rioting.
Likewise, the IDF Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) closely monitors the quality of life of West Bank Palestinians and seeks to push steps that can drive economic growth.
These include increasing the number of permits for Palestinians to work in Israel (where they receive higher wages), and fostering the growth of local Palestinian businesses.
The IDF views such steps as intrinsic stabilizers that decrease the chances of widespread violence erupting.
Similar efforts are needed in east Jerusalem.