ANALYSIS: A Terrorist Attack That Could Easily Have Been Prevented

Police at a scene of a terror attack in front of the National Police Headquarters in Yerushalayim. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Police at a scene of a terror attack in front of the National Police Headquarters in Yerushalayim. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

As these lines are being written, nine young Jewish men sit in Israeli jails — not for any terror attacks they perpetrated, nor for any illegal act they committed. Rather, their incarceration is a preventive measure, as decided by the security forces, after the youths talked, in public or private, or even just among their friends, of intentions to target Arabs.

In Israel, this is called “administrative detention.” The purpose is to see to it that the speaker should not carry out the designs of which he has spoken or hinted. Israeli courts are quick to approve requests for administrative detention orders, so that the security establishment can feel confident that the potential for trouble has been averted.

And now it emerges that the terrorist who committed his crime on Sunday in Yerushalayim was not only a resident of the capital with an Israeli identity card, but one who has, in fact, carried out in the past five or six terror attacks, and who has declared his intention at every opportunity that he seeks to carry out more of them. Yet, incredibly, the security officials did not keep him in administrative detention as a menace to public safety.

These lines are being written with caution, strictly in accordance with what is permitted for publication by the authorities, so that disclosure should not “damage ongoing investigations.”

If it were possible to publicize all that is known, there would be a hue and cry over the way the security forces have handled this affair, for then it would be clear to everyone that we are talking about a wretched attack that could have been very easily preventable.

But it wasn’t prevented — because of prevailing fear of the human rights organizations that are active in Israel on behalf of organizations and governments in Europe and the United States. They pressure the Israeli government to treat murderers and terrorists with kid gloves, lest Israel be condemned in the international arena.

The price for this is paid by Israelis with their lives. Like this morning, in the streets of Yerushalayim, where a terrorist went on a rampage less than 24 hours before he was supposed to return to prison for attacking a Jewish police officer. Despite the fact that he has been convicted, guilty of the crime beyond all doubt, the state attorneys did not demand his immediate incarceration. Not only that, but he was permitted to go home; and on the very same day the court released him, he stood at the entrance to Har Habayis carrying anti-Jewish placards and promising those around him that he had not finished his bloody work.

Did the security forces know about this? Of course. This was a multiple offender known to everyone — his friends and neighbors and, without doubt, the police. He appeared in Hamas head-wrap, making his threats to kill more Jews, for weeks, on Arab social media.

Had he been arrested and behind bars on Sunday, he would not have been able to go out into a main street in Yerushalayim and open fire with his automatic weapon on Jewish passersby. He would not have been able to kill one police officer and wound another. He would not have fired some hundred bullets, paving his way back to prison with the killing of two and the wounding of another eight people.

This was an astounding failure of Israel’s prosecutors and security forces. It cries out to heaven and there is no way to cover it up.

Why wasn’t he put back in prison immediately after his last conviction? Why weren’t the police watching him while he was back out on the street? How did he get his hands on an automatic weapon without the police knowing about it and arresting him? Somebody must have furnished him with the M-16, probably thieves who stole it from an IDF warehouse. This was not an improvised incident. This is not a “lone wolf” who gets up one morning, takes a knife from the kitchen, and goes out to kill Jews. He had to obtain the weapon and the ammunition, and learn how to use it.

This terrorist from the Yerushalayim neighborhood of Silwan was under a court order to stay outside the capital. How did he manage to get into the city without the police stopping him?

In spite of it all, the Yerushalayim police acted boldly on Sunday morning. They caught up with him and eliminated him in his car, which he had turned into a vehicle of murder.

The danger is compounded by the fact that a terrorist attack like this in Yerushalayim brings in its wake other attacks. That is the logic of the terrorist. If one succeeds, others follow.

And what are the Israeli authorities doing about the Arab social media which promotes incitement and terror? Practically nothing, other than issuing condemnations.

Furthermore, the terrorist opened fire at a station of the light rail near Ammunition Hill, a distance of mere yards from police headquarters. He didn’t stop there, but kept going, driving from point to point on his killing spree, for over a mile. Where were the police? Why wasn’t he stopped right after his first attack at the light rail?

It emerges that the terrorist had benefited from a series of leniencies. He was summoned to hearing after hearing, but didn’t show up. His lawyer gave the court excuses, which were accepted. His lawyer negotiated 4–5 months in prison for attacking a police officer; and then asked the imprisonment to be delayed for 5 months, a request which was granted. All during this time, he did not cease in his relentless efforts to incite violence against Jews and to create disturbances on Har Habayis.

Learning a lesson after the fact, on Sunday afternoon the authorities detained the murderer’s two sons and his brother, on suspicion that they had prior knowledge of his deadly plan and acted as accomplices.

In the wake of the attack, dozens of disorderly incidents occurred in various places in the Palestinian areas. In some intersections, fireworks were shot off in celebration of the killings, and candies were handed out to children. In east Yerushalayim, many shops were closed and signs were posted saying they were closed in solidarity with the terrorist.

During the afternoon, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened the security cabinet. Decisions will have to be made and implemented, quickly, for the threat of continued terrorism looms ahead.

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