Tempers ran high in Knesset on Wednesday during an Interior Committee debate on Arab violence in Jerusalem. The meeting focused on rock-throwing attacks and physical assaults on Jews in eastern Jerusalem.
The discussion focused in part on the problem of attackers’ young age. Many of the attackers are under age 16.
Jews living in heavily Arab parts of the capital shared their experiences. Rock attacks are a near-daily event, they reported, and more serious assaults, including firebombings, are not infrequent.
A police commander who attended the meeting reported that attacks have been growing more frequent since the Pillar of Defense counter-terror operation in late 2012. However, he said, firebomb attacks have grown less frequent following the arrest of a terrorist cell that was behind many such attacks.
Police have arrested 207 Arab residents of Jerusalem for attacking police officers or Israeli civilians since the beginning of the year. Most were minors, he said. Only 47 of the offenders were jailed pending trial.
Attorney Elisha Peleg, a member of the Jerusalem city council, stated, “There is no security for Jews living in eastern Jerusalem.” This is true not only for Jews in small Jewish enclaves within Arab neighborhoods, he said, but also for Jews in majority-Jewish neighborhoods such as the French Hill neighborhood. Some have been attacked in their own homes.
Arab gangs come to French Hill and other Jewish areas from Arab neighborhoods in order to harass the residents, he said, particularly young women. “The Arabs want to create a de-facto split in Jerusalem,” he explained. “This lawlessness is a prelude to diplomatic talks.”
MK Moshe Feiglin (Likud) said he believes the problem is that Israel allows the Muslim Waqf to control the Temple Mount. He quoted poet Uri Tzvi Greenberg, who wrote, “He who rules the Mount, rules the land.”
MK Motti Yogev (Bayit Yehudi) asked if police are planning to respond to the increasingly frequent violence by boosting their numbers in affected areas, and if police or state prosecutors planned to change their policy regarding attackers who are too young to face criminal sanctions.
MK Yisrael Eichler (Yahadut Hatorah) noted that he had come under attack in Jerusalem, during a funeral held in the Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives) cemetery. “The state is not ‘broadcasting’ that it wants to be sovereign in eastern Jerusalem,” he warned.
MK Talab Abu-Arar (Ra’am Ta’al) called for a discussion of Jewish attacks on Arabs, and said that everyone should work to reduce violence.
MK Miri Regev (Likud) concluded, “The Temple Mount and eastern Jerusalem are in our hands, and we must protect both Jews and Arabs in those areas.” State prosecutors must find a way to deal with attackers under age 16, she said, “We cannot allow them to keep throwing stones. Stones can kill.”