Following a deadly rash of terror attacks across Israel carried out by East Jerusalem residents on Tuesday, the security cabinet voted to authorize police to impose closures in Jerusalem and surround Arab neighborhoods according to security considerations, a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office said late Tuesday night.
The police “is authorized to impose a closure on, or to surround, centers of friction and incitement in Jerusalem, in accordance with security considerations,” the statement read.
Other courses of action approved by the security cabinet included the demolition of terrorists’ homes within days of an attack and the banning on new construction, the confiscation of the property of terrorists who carry out attacks and the revoking of permanent residency rights.
So far, the families of five Palestinian terrorists who have murdered Jews will receive demolition orders. They include the families of the men who killed Eitam and Naama Henkin in a West Bank shooting attack some two weeks ago; the man who fatally stabbed Nehemia Lavi and Aharon Benita in Jerusalem 10 days ago; and the killers of Malachi Rosenfeld and Danny Gonen in shooting attacks in the West Bank earlier this year.
The security cabinet also voted in favor of an NIS 80 million plan to recruit 300 guards to secure public transportation in Jerusalem. Earlier, it was announced that the IDF would provide troops for this purpose until more security guards can be recruited.
“IDF units will reinforce the Israel Police in cities and along roads,” and will deploy “along the security fence in the immediate term,” the PMO statement read.
Speaking hours after a series of terror attacks Tuesday that left three people dead and several more injured, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he believed the measures “will lead the other side to the realization that terror doesn’t pay.”
“Israel will settle its accounts with the murderers, with those who try murder and with those all those who assist them. Not only will we revoke rights from them; we will exact the full price,” he told the Knesset plenary.
The security cabinet’s decision to authorize closures and sealing off of Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem is not unheard of, but remains controversial.
Last month, police closed off the neighborhood of Sur Baher after a stone-throwing attack led to the death of an Israeli driver on the Jewish New Year. Last November, the neighborhood of al-Ram and others were sealed off following the terror attack at the Har Nof synagogue in which two terrorists from Jabel Mukaber shot and hacked to death four Jewish men at prayer and a Druze policeman who had arrived at the scene.
There has not been a time when all of East Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods were closed off all at once.
Kobi Michael, the former head of the Palestinian desk at the Ministry for Strategic Affairs, who has extensively researched the current escalating violence, broke down the issue into two main arguments.
“On the one hand you need to take acute, dramatic, effective action, but on the other you need to make every effort to not harm a population that is uninvolved [with the attacks],” Michael told The Times of Israel. “So there is a conflict.”
Supporters of Netanyahu’s plan see the value in the action that may halt the slew of terror attacks that have rocked Israel over the past two weeks. Detractors see the cost to an innocent population as outweighing the benefits a closure might have.
Michael, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies, who supports the measure, warned that it is merely a band-aid, a short term effort to allow for a long-term solution.
“An action like this doesn’t hold water by itself. It needs to be made in tandem with a series of other effective actions,” he said.
Many notable politicians, including Opposition Leader Isaac Herzog and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, have voiced also support for the measure, while some high-ranking police officers and legal groups have questioned its efficacy and whether it amounts to collective punishment.
Speaking at the scene of the attack in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood in Jerusalem on Tuesday — where two Israelis were killed when two terrorists raided a bus — Barkat demanded a complete closure on East Jerusalem neighborhoods, saying harsher measures were needed to battle a terror wave that has rocked his city over the last month.
That attack was followed minutes later by a car-ramming and stabbing attack in the Makor Baruch neighborhood, where a Palestinian terrorist from Jabel Mukaber — a relative of the Har Nof terrorists — slammed his car into pedestrians at a bus stop before jumping out and hacking an elderly Israeli man to death. The attacker was shot dead by a passerby.
A closure would be “indiscriminate and disproportionate,” according to the Adalah NGO for Arab-Israeli legal rights.
“This step is collective punishment that violates the basic rights of these villages as well as international law,” Adalah said in a statement. “The closure compounds other steps taken by the Israeli government in recent weeks that deepen the oppression that has been ongoing for 48 years and escalates the situation.”
Even veteran police officers questioned the measure. “We have a great challenge, but I don’t think that it is right to close off all of those people and imprison them,” Avshalom Peled, the deputy chief of the Jerusalem Police, told Army Radio before the plan was approved by the cabinet.
“Even if there is a closure, it needs to be done conscientiously,” he said. “And even then — there is no such thing as 100% secure, all kinds of things can still spill over.״
The security cabinet is set to reconvene on Wednesday for additional discussions on the recent wave of terror attacks.