Comptroller: Jerusalem Police failure to listen to Shin Bet endangers lives

Arabs in east Jerusalem ignored by the state.

June 3, 2019 01:34
Comptroller: Jerusalem Police failure to listen to Shin Bet endangers lives

Police stand near the site of a terrorist attack at Damascus Gate. (photo credit: ISRAEL POLICE)

The failure of the police to follow the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) guidelines for securing Jerusalem endangers lives, a State Comptroller report on Jerusalem said on Sunday.

Comptroller Joseph Shapira went so far as to connect the murder of Ori Ansbacher in February to the failure of the police to plug one of many vulnerable gaps which a Palestinian from the Hebron area exploited to sneak into Israel and kill her.

“The continuation of holes in the barrier [between Jerusalem and Palestinian areas] which allows the entrance of people crossing the border illegally… endangers the security of Israeli residents generally, and especially Jerusalem residents,” his report said.

Some of the issues between the police and the Shin Bet date back around a decade to when the barrier between Jerusalem and Palestinian areas was conceived by the IDF without significant police input, and then handed over to police to guard.

From the start, the police said that since the IDF designed the barrier, it viewed areas it managed more as check points than as crossing points. Different security concepts govern check points as opposed to crossing points.

The comptroller said that the police are simultaneously providing insufficient training and security through its forces in those areas, while also managing to rub the Palestinian population the wrong way and sometimes unnecessarily pushing some of them toward dangerous levels of resentment. In addition, the report said that the volume of border guards in and around crossing areas into Jerusalem was insufficiently low.

The comptroller said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the police, the Shin Bet, the IDF and the relevant security related ministries must fix this security gap, which was never fixed until now despite being mentioned in earlier reports.

While the IDF said that it had received the final version of the report a few days ago, the military said it “welcomes the criticism, and will act to correct the flaws.”

In addition, the military said that most of the deficiencies that were raised have already been dealt with or are in the process of being fixed.

The military said that the IDF, in cooperation with the Israel Police, the Shin Bet and the Defense Ministry, have deepened their cooperation in the Jerusalem area. That is reflected in joint situational assessments, a sharing of intelligence among the parties, joint drills and operational activities, as well as a joint war room.

“The IDF views the security of the Jerusalem area as one of its most important missions, with full cooperation, quality and close cooperation with the other security bodies in the area,” the military said.

The report also had multiple sections noting the state’s abandonment of Arabs in east Jerusalem in providing health, sanitation, education and other services.

The Arabs in east Jerusalem have historically been a complex issue for the state, with nearly all of them having rights to certain social services since they live within Israel’s Green Line, but nearly all of them also remaining non-citizens.

There is an ongoing debate if, when the state offered them full citizenship and the east Jerusalem Arabs rejected the offer it was out of identification with the Palestinian cause, or whether the state’s offer was burdensome and complex to discourage them from becoming citizens.

The report said that 2,500 east Jerusalemites filed requests for citizenship mostly during the 2014-2016 period, but that the state is dragging out the review process to an extremely unreasonable extent.

Shapira wrote that none of the requests have been fully addressed, and that the combination of having to wait two and a half years to file a request followed by an indefinite waiting period for an answer shows that the Population, Immigration and Borders Authority is failing in this area.

There are also occasional spikes in security incidents from east Jerusalem neighborhoods and a general level of violence even internally between Arabs living there that is worse than the rest of the country. Because of this dynamic, non-political good government groups like the comptroller, and even agencies such as the police, have admitted that social services and security for east Jerusalem Arabs is severely lacking.

The comptroller said that state agencies responsible for providing services to east Jerusalem are often “not even meeting the minimal requirements which the law requires” of them.

REGARDING EDUCATION, the comptroller noted that 23,000 east Jerusalem children between the ages of three and 18 were never registered within any aspect of the educational system recognized by the state, and there is no effort to ascertain what is happening with their education.

One in four east Jerusalemites between ninth and 12th grade drop out of school, a percentage far higher than both the national dropout rate and even the dropout rate in the Arab sector nationally.

Shapira said that 92% of east Jerusalemites are taught Hebrew at a very low level, which harms their ability to integrate into Israeli society.

The comptroller said that improving the socioeconomic status of east Jerusalemites could be key to improving the security situation.

Furthermore, the report said that the various authorities who are supposed to protect children in unstable and high-risk family situations are not carrying out their duties for east Jerusalemites, especially in areas the state has declared part of Jerusalem but which are beyond the West Bank barrier.

Only 25% of Jerusalem’s social services budget goes to east Jerusalemites, even though they represent 38% of the city’s population and 61% of its poor.

The comptroller also noted that there is a shortage of social service workers to provide basic services for disabled and elderly east Jerusalemites.

The report also criticized the National Insurance Institute for failure to publish its criteria to east Jerusalemites on how they can receive financial support. Where east Jerusalemites do apply for support, the report said that the NII does not necessarily perform sufficient checks about whether the applicants meet eligibility requirements – which are also unclear.

Besides the above issues, the report slammed the Jerusalem municipality for operating a financial apparatus that is likely to become insolvent. It implied that too many residents, likely in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) sector, are paying insufficient taxes, and that the municipality is not doing enough to encourage those receiving financial support to find work. This failed model is already negatively impacting the municipality’s ability to provide proper social welfare services to those who really need it, said the report.

Finally, the report said that health and sanitation services throughout the city are problematic, and have gotten to the point that the city’s crucial tourism industry could be negatively impacted.

Shapira said that Jerusalem is not only Israel’s capital, but is home to 901,000 residents making it the country’s largest city, and that the law mandates Jerusalem should have a special status, not the severe socioeconomic problems it is experiencing.

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