A former police chief on Saturday assailed National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir after the latter said he’d order a major anti-terror crackdown in East Jerusalem after Friday’s deadly car-ramming attack, accusing him of populism.
Following the attack, which left three dead, Ben Gvir released a statement saying he’d told police to gear up for a major operation Sunday, specifically evoking a famous 2002 military campaign against West Bank terror groups. However, Ben Gvir lacks the authority to approve such a move on his own and his comments were dismissed by a senior government official.
“Ben Gvir is a pyromaniac with a gas tank,” ex-police commissioner Moshe Karadi said during a speaking engagement in Rishon Lezion.
Karadi noted that such an operation would require extensive, months-long preparations. “Ben Gvir doesn’t understand this, because he’s never commanded even half a squad and has never worn a uniform,” he added. (Ben Gvir was not conscripted by the IDF because of his extreme-right political activism.)
The former commissioner, who led the force between 2004-2007, said Ben Gvir was out of his league. “He’s been given a job he’s entirely unequipped for,” he said.
“Ben Gvir doesn’t understand that police need to prevent crime, investigate and bring [suspects] to trial,” he said. “If you want to lock down neighborhoods as a punishment, you need to appeal to the court, not the police.”
“He likely doesn’t even understand that Shuafat is part of the State of Israel,” Karadi added, referring to a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. “The comparison between Jenin and Issawiya is ridiculous.”
The terrorist who carried out Friday’s ramming was an Israeli citizen and a resident of East Jerusalem’s Issawiya, which Ben Gvir said he’d ordered police to set up roadblocks around to increase security checks.
“I don’t remember a defense minister who informed Hamas that on Wednesday we’re entering a neighborhood in Gaza. Only someone who doesn’t understand anything about the police could do that,” Karadi said.
He also hit out at Ben Gvir for making the announcement while visiting the site of Friday’s attack.
“If he’s really serious, why does he need to do it from the sidewalk in the middle of the day,” Karadi said, referring to Ben Gvir’s call for an operation. “This is unserious populism.”
Karadi’s criticism of Ben Gvir came a day after a senior government official told multiple Hebrew media outlets anonymously that “decisions of such a scale are not made in statements by one minister or another on a sidewalk at the scene of an attack.”
The official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will decide on any operation only after conferring with the security establishment and after an orderly discussion in the cabinet, which was expected to convene Sunday.
The official added that there was no intention “to collectively punish the East Jerusalem public” and that any actions would also need to take into account the coming Ramadan holiday and the need to allow freedom of worship in the capital.
Ben Gvir, who heads the far-right Otzma Yehudit party, ran on campaign promises of cracking down on Palestinian attacks and Arab Israeli crime. He has faced criticism from the hard right after several deadly terror attacks in recent weeks, with detractors saying he has so far failed to deliver on his vows to crush terror and introduce punishments of unprecedented severity against attackers and their families, including the death penalty for convicted terrorists.
Arriving at the scene of Friday’s attack, Ben Gvir was met with heckles from several angry bystanders. “The biggest terror attacks were on your watch,” one shouted. Two Fridays ago, seven Israelis were killed in a terror shooting attack near a synagogue in the capital’s Neve Yaakov neighborhood.
Friday’s attack occurred at a bus stop near the Nebi Samuel site, between Jerusalem and the Palestinian city of Ramallah. The terrorist, Hussein Qaraqa, ran his car into a group of people, killing six-year-old Yaakov Yisrael Paley and 20-year-old Alter Shlomo Lederman.
Paley’s older brother, 8-year-old Asher Menahem Paley, was critically hurt in the attack and died Saturday of his wounds. The slain children’s brother, Moshie, 10, was lightly hurt in the attack and released from Hadassah Medical Center over the weekend. The boys’ father, 42, remains hospitalized in moderate condition.
The other casualties included two men in their 20s in serious condition, according to medical officials.