It’s hard to be rational when it comes to Yerushalayim, home to Jews everywhere, not just to those who merit to live within its city limits. It’s nearly impossible to be levelheaded when it comes to Arab violence in Yerushalayim, where so many yeshivah bachurim have come to grow in learning; where young families like the Brauns, who lost their baby daughter in a terror attack last week, come to spend a spiritually uplifting Yom Tov; where men, women and children of all walks of life seek nothing more than to lead their lives in peace.
But these days call for perspective, for reasoned thinking.
Is violence in and around Yerushalayim on the rise? Yes. According to the most recent General Security Service report, it has increased dramatically, from 22 incidents in May and June to 152 in July and August, representing a 509 percent increase. And these figures don’t tell the whole story. They don’t include the acts of violence that go unreported, the rocks that miss, the tires that mysteriously go flat right after they were checked by the Arab puncture-macher (tire repairman).
Is the violence at unprecedented levels? Certainly not. In the early 2000s, buses were exploding on the streets of the capital, leaving scores of dead and hundreds of wounded.
Can more be done by the security forces to bring the level of violence down? Undoubtedly. The police need reinforcements so that they can be more of a presence in trouble spots, undercover agents must be sent into Arab neighborhoods to gather intelligence, and more advanced technological means of surveillance must be employed.
Can the violence be eliminated? No. For one thing, Arabs are everywhere in Yerushalayim, not just the eastern part, and there is no way to keep tabs on the minority who pose a security threat. For another, there is a limit as to the amount of force Israel can use in Yerushalayim, a tinderbox that could ignite with any spark, bringing the entire Muslim world into open conflict with Israel and the West.
It is within this complex reality, in the narrow band between the possible and the impossible, that Israeli policymakers must operate. They must pick battles that can be won with minimum casualties, physically and diplomatically, and that help stem the tide of violence.
For instance, while it might be impossible to secure all of Yerushalayim, it is certainly not impossible to secure Har Hazeisim, despite the difficulties posed by the Arab neighborhoods surrounding it. All it takes is determination. The government of Israel must reach the conclusion that it cannot allow a situation whereby graves at this ancient site are regularly destroyed and Jews cannot come to visit their relatives.
The solution is not rocket science. It requires a police station that is manned round the clock, police patrols that make their presence felt at all hours of the day and night, surveillance cameras and, most importantly, laws that mandate stiff punishment for those who would dare violate the sanctity of Har Hazeisim, and, when necessary, their parents (if parents knew they’d be fined NIS 10,000 if their youngsters were caught destroying graves they would make sure it didn’t happen).
Moreover, as Hamodia’s military correspondent A. Pe’er notes this week in “Privileged Information,” one of the key factors in the rise of violence in the capital is Israel’s misguided commitment to keep its security forces out of neighboring Palestinian villages and to count, instead, on the PA forces to fight terrorism.
It’s time to change the rules of the game, but in a way that enjoys the backing of Washington and at least parts of the international community. A PR campaign must be launched that describes in detail the violence of recent months — the incessant attacks on the light rail that was meant to improve the quality of life for Arab neighborhoods as well; the stoning of Israeli drivers; the fear that is so bad that the Tel Aviv municipality postponed class trips to Yerushalayim this week out of concern for their students’ welfare.
World leaders must be appraised of the incitement to violence that is broadcast regularly in the PA media, the comments coming from PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas himself, the so-called moderate, the rising influence of Hamas in Yehudah and Shomron, and how all this translates into violence on the ground, including last week’s murder of Chaya Zissel Braun, Hy”d.
Only then will they understand why Israel has no choice but to re-enter PA villages and take security matters back into its own hands.
While PR is always an uphill battle, Israel has friends in Washington, people like U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. In response to the killing of Chaya Zissel, she wrote: “I call on President Abbas to renounce this cowardly act and all of those Fatah and Hamas members who applauded it. We must make clear that terrorism will never achieve peace and a Palestinian state.”
We must continue to do maximum hishtadlus, in the knowledge that the ultimate solution will only come with bi’as haMoshiach, when the entire world proclaims Hashem as King of the universe.n