Just days after two cars were torched and anti-Arab grafitti spray-painted on a wall in an Arab neighborhood of eastern Yerushalayim, Israel’s security cabinet on Sunday night began a crackdown on perpetrators of “price tag” attacks, declaring their perpetrators an “illegal association.”
According to the prime minister’s office, the decision “significantly expands the investigative and judicial tools available to the security forces and law enforcement authorities” to combat the vandalism.
The PMO said that the security cabinet “authorized Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to use his authority under defense regulations to declare ‘price tag’ activists an illegal association.” This will mean harsher punishments, according to an Israeli official.
However, the government did not go so far as to classify the attacks as acts of terror, as some have been advocating, The Jerusalem Post noted.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch, who favor making price tag vandalism a terrorist crime, are said to be preparing legislation to that end.
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein has said that there is no legal barrier to such a declaration, but he added that he believed better investigatory police work was needed, and not extra legislation.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has condemned price tag attacks, but he has avoided taking a position about classifying it as terrorism.
An Israeli official explained that there is a concern that declaring price tag attacks acts of terror would blur the lines between them and the far greater threat posed by terrorist organizations such as Hamas or Hizbullah. From a diplomatic point of view, it would also be inadvisable, some argue, since it would provide ammunition for those in the international community who seek to equate Jewish vandalism with Arab terror.
But the cabinet decision is subject to review in six months. If the problem persists, a legal re-classification would be likely.