Security cabinet approves closing off Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods when needed

Cabinet decides to increase police's operational forces and to hire 300 security guards for public transportation.

Border Police officers scuffle with a Palestinian protester as they detain him near Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: REUTERS)
Border Police officers scuffle with a Palestinian protester as they detain him near Damascus Gate outside Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The security cabinet met for a second day on Wednesday to discuss further steps to tamp down the terrorism engulfing the country, this time focusing on incitement, even as the IDF and police began implementing previously agreed upon measures.
Among these were surrounding, and where needed because of security considerations enforcing a closure of, Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem. The government heeded the security establishment’s calls, however, and refrained from clamping a total closure on the West Bank.
Following a marathon meeting, the security cabinet approved the following steps early Wednesday morning:
• In addition to the demolition of terrorists’ homes, no new construction will be permitted at the site where such homes are demolished.
• The property of terrorists who perpetrate attacks will be confiscated.
• The Jerusalem permanent residency rights of terrorists will be revoked.
• The operational force of the Israel Police will be enlarged and expanded.
• Three hundred additional security guards will be recruited for public transportation in Jerusalem at a cost of NIS 80 million.
• IDF units will reinforce the police in cities and along main roads.
• The IDF will be instructed to deploy units in sensitive areas along the West Bank Security barrier.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also directed that work be done to complete the barrier, including in the South Hebron Hills.
Netanyahu visited a Border Police base in Jerusalem on Wednesday, and said – after praising the force for its life-saving actions in recent days and pledging full government support – that there was no alternative to deploying a large number of mobile personnel who are able to quickly respond to any attacker to thwart the attack or keep it from getting worse.
He said the police and IDF have full backing from the government and the nation to “act with determination – first of all to save lives, and also to defend yourselves.”
National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz, who is a member of the security cabinet, told foreign reporters at a press conference on Wednesday that “dramatic times necessitate drastic measures,” but that these steps will be relaxed as calm is restored.
Steinitz said steps such as demolishing the homes of terrorists and not allowing them to be rebuilt were intended to act as a counterweight to Palestinian incentives – including financial incentives – that were encouraging acts of terrorism.
October 13 terror attack in Jerusalem caught on camera
The logic, Steinitz said, was to impress upon the terrorists that “if you destroy the life of another family, it will not bring rewards – not for the terrorist, nor for the people who support or celebrate it.”
Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold, speaking at the same press conference, dismissed the argument that imposing a closure on some of the neighborhoods of the capital was the beginning of the “redivision of Jerusalem.”
“This is nonsense,” Gold said, adding that when similar steps were taken in other cities around the world where there are occasional spurts of violence – such as Paris, Los Angeles and Ferguson, Missouri – it does not mean the state is giving up its sovereignty over those areas.
“Israel will adopt the measures necessary to bring about quiet,” he said, adding that those measures will answer standards of “fairness.”
The moves approved by the security cabinet were “the legitimate instruments of a democracy seeking to defend itself, using proportionality, restrained measures and not changing in any way the status quo on the Temple Mount,” Gold said.
Steinitz sharply responded to criticism that Israel was engaging in “extrajudicial executions” when police or soldiers kill attackers, saying that no one ever accused the French police of carrying out “executions” after they killed terrorists in Paris.
He also took the international media to task for referring to acts of murder carried out by groups such as Islamic State or al-Qaida as “brutal acts of terror,” while referring to similar acts against Jews in Israel as an “escalation of violence.”
Both Steinitz and Gold attributed the recent wave of terrorism to incitement, with Steinitz saying that a 13-year-old boy does not take a butcher knife and go try to kill Jews because of an “overall analysis of the peace process.”
“No,” he said, “this is about hatred and indoctrination to kill the Jews, get rid of the Jews.” He said Palestinian children were fed this incitement “like their mother’s milk,” and that it is coming from Hamas, the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel and “on a daily basis” from the Palestinian Authority educational system and government-controlled television.
In response to the cabinet decision, Sari Bashi, Israel/Palestine country director at Human Rights Watch, said: “The recent spate of attacks on Israeli civilians would present a challenge for any police force. But exacerbating the punitive policy of home demolitions is an unlawful and ill-considered response.”
Further, she said, “Locking down east Jerusalem neighborhoods will infringe upon the freedom of movement of all Palestinian residents rather than being a narrowly tailored response to a specific concern.
The checkpoints are a recipe for harassment and abuse.”
The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee approved Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon’s request to immediately call up 1,400 Border Police reservists on Thursday. The Border Police representative in the meeting, Cmdr.
Amir Cohen, said 850 reservists were already called up, and if needed, the rest will be brought ein.
“The fighters are very motivated.
They understand the importance at this time and, therefore, the response to call-up orders is at almost 100 percent,” Cohen said.
“The fighters enlisted underwent special training in recent days to prepare them for their mission to bring quiet back to the streets.”
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Tzachi Hanegbi (Likud) said the panel supports giving reservists in the Border Police extensions for the submission of forms that are due on the 15th of the month, such as VAT reports.
MK Merav Ben-Ari (Kulanu) asked the Tax Authority to make sure that self-employed reservists who were called up get the extension, and was told that the authorities will cooperate with Border Police reservists in the field to make sure they have “quiet at home during their reserve duty.”
Yonah Jeremy Bob and Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.