With continuing rioting and violence in Jerusalem by Arab extremists, we now find ourselves in an analogous situation to what happened on our border with Gaza following the disastrous 2005 disengagement. The residents of the border communities in the South endured unending rocket and mortar attacks for years, but the rest of the country only took notice when tragedy occurred or the terrorists begin to target population centers in the center of the country.
Similarly, the violence and vandalism in Jerusalem that has been steadily increasing over the past few months while the media and too many of our political leaders only began to take notice after the horrific murders of Karen Yemima Muscara and three-year-old Haya Zissel Braun. It is unfortunate that it has taken fatalities, or violent incidents in the larger more established Jewish neighborhoods, for the general public to take notice. This indifference is unacceptable whether in the South or in Jerusalem
The operation in Gaza this past summer should make it clear what happens when our leaders choose to ignore the writing on the wall when it comes to Arab terror. Imagine how different our summer would have been had our leaders in the past acted decisively every time a missile was smuggled into Gaza, or responded with an appropriate show of force at every act of aggression by the Palestinians.
To avoid such a reality of ever-increasing violence in Jerusalem, we must immediately implement both short and long term strategies to resolve this unacceptable situation. In the short-term our security forces should begin operating deep in the Arab neighborhoods. Our police officers have the training and know-how to deal with the rioters and should not be limited to ‘containing’ to specific neighborhoods those who break the law. We should instead confront without fear the criminals on their home turf.
For the longer term, we should look to the example of New York City. Anyone who visited New York in the 1980’s and 90’s remembers what a dangerous place the world’s most famous metropolis was. When Rudolph Giuliani was elected mayor in 1994 he began implementing the now-famous broken windows theory. While everyone understood that the homicides and drug trade were completely unacceptable, Mayor Giuliani argued that to eliminate serious crime over time, a zero-tolerance policy was needed for seemingly insignificant quality-of-life crimes as well.
The NY police began cracking down on everything from prostitution to graffiti, and even began arresting the ‘squeegee men’ who would harass drivers at red lights and demand payment for their so-called services. The results soon followed with all categories of crime seriously declining throughout Giuliani’s tenure (and continuing to do so under the leadership of Mayor Mike Bloomberg).
This is what is needed now in Jerusalem. We must immediately end the soft hand of law enforcement in the eastern neighborhoods that has endured for too long. Every stone thrown at a school bus must result in arrest and conviction. Every tombstone overturned in the historic Mount of Olives cemetery should be treated as an attack on our forefathers. Each time a light rail station is vandalized, the video recording of the attack should be analyzed and the perpetrators punished to the fullest extent of the law. If the current laws are not tough enough, then we as members of Knesset must work to rectify this in an expedited fashion.
Despite the news of the past few months, it is important to remember that there are currently two conflicting realities in Jerusalem today. On one hand, Arabs in the eastern neighborhoods are becoming increasing violent. At the same time life goes on as usual in most of the city with people going to work and children attending schools and nurseries as in the rest of the country. It is our job as leaders to put an end to this lawlessness before it succeeds changing this situation and overtaking the brave resilience of Jerusalemites.
Now is the time for bold action from everyone from the police officers on the street to the cabinet ministers in the Government. Only by staunchly confronting the rioters in their neighborhoods while simultaneously enacting a zero-tolerance policy towards all crime can we hope to return full peace and security to our eternal capital. This is the Jerusalem that Jews throughout the ages have yearned for and this is the capital that the State of Israel deserves.