Daily Israel Report

Olmert: No Fencing-Off Eastern Jerusalem

Prime Minister rejects the option of fencing off eastern Jerusalem following Wednesday’s terror attack, but the terrorist's house might be razed.
By Ze'ev Ben-Yechiel
First Publish: 7/3/2008, 11:53 AM

The Prime Minister rejects the option of fencing off eastern Jerusalem following Wednesday’s terror attack. Olmert says ‘maybe’ on demolishing the terrorist’s house. The State is considering destroying the home of the Arab terrorist who murdered 8 students at Jerusalem's Merkaz HaRav yeshiva in March.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejects a proposal, voiced in the wake of the gruesome murder of three Jews in Jerusalem Wednesday, to erect a fence around the Arab neighborhoods of eastern Jerusalem.

“There is no way to fence-off the Arabs of east Jerusalem and every home of a potential terrorist," the PM said on Wednesday evening during a series of emergency meetings following the deadly terrorist attack.

Olmert also voiced support for the motion to demolish the home of the terrorist, the second in four months from eastern Jerusalem. "We need to stop the terror attacks carried out by eastern Jerusalem Arabs, and if that must be done through means of deterrence or the demolition of a home – then so be it," he said. The murderer of eight yeshiva students in the March attack in Merkaz HaRav lived in Jebel Mukaber, a Jerusalem neighborhood close to the home of Wednesday’s attacker.

Wednesday's killer has been identified as 31-year-old Hussam Duwiyat from the neighborhood of Sur Baher, a father of two and an employee of the Jerusalem Municipality.

Aiming to draw lessons from the two latest terror attacks, both committed by Arab Jerusalemites, Olmert held multiple high-profile consultations with cabinet ministers and other top officials in his government in the hopes of preventing the next local terrorist from attacking.

Among those the PM met with Wednesday night were Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni. Together they addressed the recurring pattern of eastern Jerusalem Arabs abusing their residency rights to move freely into central Israel with the intent of carrying out terror attacks.

The ministers have expressed support for deterrent actions, such as demolishing a terrorist's house or stripping his family of welfare rights.

Olmert also discussed the punitive options with Attorney General Menachem Mazuz. He wished to obtain a judgment from Mazuz regarding the legal ramifications of implementing such measures.

Mazuz, in turn, is expected to summon his own consultations on Thursday to review the options for a government response to the attack and to make a recommendation. State Prosecutor Moshe Lador's office has already scheduled a Thursday meeting to examine the plans to demolish the home of Ala Abu Dheim, the terrorist in the Merkaz HaRav attack.

Throughout Wednesday various members of the Israeli defense and security establishment held meetings of their own. Defense officials claimed in the meetings that it was virtually impossible to foresee or prepare for terror attacks of this nature. 

The officials admitted that the State cannot detain Arabs from eastern Jerusalem, as they have all the rights of Israeli citizens under post-1967 agreements. Under current policies, the police are powerless to restrict the movement of Jerusalem Arabs. Therefore, said the sources, prevention of such terrorism is impossible, and punishment for terrorist acts already committed is the only deterrent measure at the government’s disposal. Through punitive reactions such as demolishing a terrorist’s home, Israeli leaders hope that potential terrorists' concern for their own families will ultimately change their minds.

Many questions remain from Wednesday’s attack, such as why the police ultimately failed to stop the killer and how he was hired by the Municipality of Jerusalem despite having served two years in prison for the rape and attempted murder of a Jewish woman.