Jerusalem is security deficient, poor, and dirty, state comptroller finds
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Jerusalem is security deficient, poor, and dirty, state comptroller finds

Audit shows authorities failing to properly manage crossings from West Bank; security barrier still breached; poverty rates among children higher than national average

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Garbage piled up on the side of the street in Jerusalem's Wadi Joz neighborhood on September 23, 2018. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)
Garbage piled up on the side of the street in Jerusalem's Wadi Joz neighborhood on September 23, 2018. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

A state audit report on Jerusalem has found that failures to meet security needs in preventing illegal Palestinian entry are endangering the city, that the capital has a high poverty rate, and that residents think it’s dirty.

State Comptroller Yosef Shapira published the report Sunday to coincide with Jerusalem Day, which marks the Hebrew date when Israel gained control of the eastern side of the city in the 1967 Six Day War.

In the report, which reviewed the period of 2007-2016, Shapira strongly criticized authorities for failing to meet security requirements at checkpoints between the West Bank and areas around the city.

“There are still significant shortcomings regarding compliance with the security and security inspection procedures, and with regard to the training required for commanders and the security personnel guarding the crossings,” Shapira wrote.

“In addition, the continued existence of breaches in the barrier that allow the entry of illegal aliens from Judea and Samaria to Jerusalem endangers the security of Israeli residents,” he said, using the biblical name for the West Bank.

Sixteen years after the security barrier along the seam line between the West Bank and Israel was set up, there are still two breaches in the boundary that Palestinians from the West Bank, who do not have permits to travel to Israel, use to gain illegal access to the country and the capital. It was through one of those two breaches that the Palestinian suspected of murdering Ori Ansbacher, 19, on the outskirts of Jerusalem in February passed into Israeli territory.

According to the report, there are also communication problems between the army, Border Police, and police that harms security cooperation.

Palestinians at the new Qalandiya checkpoint on March 26, 2019, waiting their turn to pass through turnstiles and metal detectors. (Adam Rasgon/Times of Israel)

Overall poverty is another problem.

In 2016, over a third of the families in Jerusalem, 38 percent, were considered poor and 55% of the city’s children were living in poverty. In the same year, the national average for poverty among children was 31%.

Residents are also unsatisfied with the level of hygiene in the areas where they live. Jerusalem was at the bottom of a 2016 index ranking the satisfaction of residents with the level of hygiene ion their city, the report found.

The Jerusalem municipality is becoming increasingly dependent on government support to maintain a budgetary balance, Shapira noted. Although the municipality is managing to balance its budget, it is only able to do so by relying on increasing support from the government.

A special government bonus for Jerusalem was NIS 197 million ($54 million), or 6% of the city budget, in 2007. By 2017, it had grown to NIS 700 million ($192 million), or 13% of the budget.

The municipality responded in a statement saying, “The report deals with previous years and since then there have been many positive changes in the sections described with an emphasis on the cleanliness of the city. The municipality is studying the report in detail and drawing conclusions, some of which have already been implemented on the ground, and will continue to be implemented as much as possible.”

An Israeli woman searches for objects of worth in a garbage container in the center of Jerusalem, February 16, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Prime Minister’s Office said that it was working to improve the situation at the border crossings.

“The current government invested more than any other government in upgrading the crossings in the Jerusalem envelope area and in general at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels,” the PMO said in a statement.

The Israel Police said it would act to resolve the issues raised in the report.

“A significant part of the issues raised in the comptroller report were studied and adopted by the police even before they were published,” police said in a statement. “The audit report raises important, critical issues, the vast majority of which are on the police’s agenda and have received extensive organizational attention for a long time.”

The Israel Defense Forces said in a statement that it, too, has already started to address some of the issues raised in the report.

“Most of the defects that were raised have already been dealt with or are in the process of being worked on,” the IDF said.

“As a result, the IDF, in cooperation with the Israel Police, the Shin Bet and the Defense Ministry, have deepened their cooperation, which is reflected in joint situation assessments, knowledge sharing among the parties, exercises, operational activities and a joint war room,” the statement said.

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