In recent weeks the level of violence in Jerusalem has waned, at least with respect to Israelis being attacked. This trend should not be allowed lull us into complacency, and a hard look at what has happened these past few weeks is absolutely essential – and the conclusions are almost staggering.
- In a 2008 report, Israel’s General Security Agency (“Shabak”) released some illuminating statistics relating to the participation of East Jerusalem Palestinians in acts of terror during the Second Intifada. According to this report, between January 1, 2001 and December 31, 2008 a total of 270 East Jerusalemite Palestinians were arrested in relation to their participation in acts of terror.
- On November 11, 2015, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot published (here) the official statistics regarding the recent wave of violence, including the numbers of East Jerusalem residents arrested in terror related incidents. During the two-month period commencing September 13 (the eve of Rosh Hashanah), a total of 797 East Jerusalemite Palestinians were arrested in relation to the violence.
- The following comparison is not entirely rigorous, since it appears likely that the Shabak applied different criteria for counting security-related events during the Second Intifada from those now released in regard to the recent violence. That said, the basic reality as illuminated by these figures remains valid – and the conclusion is stunning: The number of arrests made in East Jerusalem in September and October 2015 – a period of 2 months – was several times larger than the number of Palestinian East Jerusalemites detained during the entire seven years of the Second intifada.
That said, it now appears that the violence is receding, and a new dynamic emerging.
- On October 27, Israeli police announced that the security threat in Jerusalem has been largely contained (with that threat moving into other areas of Israel and the West Bank)
- The Israeli police initially removed 4 of the barriers to movement that had been placed within East Jerusalem neighborhoods, leaving around 20 more in place and making it clear that the others would be put back if violence picked up again. The numbers and nature of the barriers change daily, but in different ways. For example, the barriers in and around Issawiyeh and Jabel Mukaber have been the tightest, and the relaxation of these measures slower and less pronounced.
- Notably, back in late October the Arab Affairs advisor to the Israel Police had spoken out against the barriers, noting, “Closing off the [Arab] neighborhoods [of Jerusalem] with concrete barriers and establishing checkpoints, as well as increased use of force, will not necessarily solve the situation in Jerusalem, and possibly make it worse.” He suggested instead that Israel should work to make clear that it has no intention of changing the status quo on the Temple Mount.