Jerusalem’s Mayor pledges to combat rioting as violence continues to rise – but critics say local authorities not doing enough.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat addressed Jerusalem’s “silent intifada” on Thursday night, urging that he will take a hard line against Arab rioters, who have been throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police and civilians.
“I want to clarify this decisively: a heavy and uncompromising hand should be taken against anyone who does violence of any kind,” Barkat stated on his Facebook page. “We will not accept a situation where we see throwing stones or Molotov cocktails at the light rail, at Jewish homes in eastern Jerusalem or any other kind of violence.”
It is unacceptable that police arrest rioters only to have them released in a “revolving door” by the court, said Barkat.
“We have to step up and create a deterrent, a punishment to let [rioters] know – anyone who thinks they can take the law into their own hands will be caught and will pay a heavy price,” Barkat urged.
Barkat said that the police are making great efforts in recent months to, as he put it, eradicate terrorism completely.
“More than 700 rioters have been arrested and hundreds of indictments have been filed,” Barkat stated. “The municipality is, and will continue to, assist and respond to every police request until it is defeated.”
Barkat also said that the local Arab leadership neighborhoods have been cooperating with police.
“I am pleased that the Arab leadership, along with the vast majority of the population, has strongly condemned the violence being carried out – mostly by teenagers. Everyone should know that [violence] will be punished severely,” he said.
“I am in constant contact with the Prime Minister [Binyamin Netanyahu] on the subject, and the commissioner of Police [Yohanan Danino -ed],” Barkat continued. “They take the issue seriously and have expanded their copingstrategies to be more effective and faster.”
“This is not the place to elaborate on that,” he added, “but those who continue to behave violently will be apprehended quickly and pay a heavy price.”
According to Barkat, the true aim of the rioting is to disrupt a general sense of security in the capital city.
“[They want us to] cancel the cultural events in Jerusalem, to vacate hotels, to hurt [our] business revenue in the city, to scare commuters and stop the train from running,” he said. “We will not give them that pleasure. The answer to this is insisting to continue our routine, while stepping up police work, fully addressing any disturbances and reporting them.”
“The city will continue to function, the train will continue to run, and even more so the police will continue to keep Jerusalem safe,” he concluded.
While over 600 arrests were reportedly made since rioting first began in July, a tolerance for escalating unrest has grown, and a recent expose revealed that some rioters – who are being encouraged to throw fireworks and other dangerous materials at police – are as young as nine years old.
On Wednesday, hundreds of frustrated Jerusalemites staged a protest against the tolerance of the unrest, claiming Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beytenu) is personally responsible for the escalation of crime.
Many dissenters have also held Barkat responsible for the crime as well, after the mayor was found to have pushed for the expansion of Arab neighborhoods in the capital while ignoring ongoing illegal Arab construction.