Israel Police and the National Security Ministry want to permit officers to use live fire against rioters who block roads during an emergency, Kan 11 News revealed Tuesday night. The relaxed rules of engagement are needed for situations in which Israeli Arabs block roads where IDF convoys will be moving to the front, a lesson learned from the May 2021 Operation Guardian of the Walls.
Meanwhile, the committee examining the establishment of a National Guard has also recommended relaxing the rules of engagement against rioters in an emergency, and not only against mobs that are blocking the path of security convoys.
In 2000, a committee headed by Judge Theodor Or following the October violent outburst of Israeli Arabs who identified with the second intifada blamed both Jewish and Arab officials for the eruption of Arab violence on October 1, 2000, and police killing of 13 Israeli Arab rioters. The committee placed much of the blame on then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak and ruled unequivocally that using live fire is not a permissible means of dispersing a crowd.
As a result, police officers today are only allowed to fire when their lives are in danger and are not even allowed to shoot in the air to disperse a violent crowd as long as the violence is not life-threatening.
About a month ago, during the Eritrean riots in Tel Aviv, police officers used live fire against the rioters, and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai noted that this was the first time since October 2000 that the police fired live fire to preserve law and order.
Ra’am Party Chairman Mansour Abbas condemned the police move, suggesting it would lead to a new committee of inquiry in the future. Abbas said the move represented a failure on the part of police on how to deal with the challenges in Arab society and claimed easing the rules of engagement would not make a difference. “Whoever blocks roads in front of military convoys during war probably wants to start a war anyway,” he said.
MK Abbas said that “what needs to be done is to reach out to the normative Arab citizens and solve deep-rooted problems so that they will continue to maintain law and order and behave responsibly in difficult and not difficult times.”
He also cited research suggesting that crime organizations that are rampant in Arab society are tomorrow’s terror organizations, and if the government continues to ignore them, they will eventually pose the same threat as groups like Hamas today.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir told Reshet Bet Radio on Wednesday: “It should be easier for the police to shoot those who threaten their lives. The rules of engagement limit our police officers’ ability to act. The move is aimed at events like Guardians of the Wall 2 when hundreds and thousands of weapons will be pointed at our soldiers.”
The Or committee accused PM Barak of ignoring developments in the Israeli Arab community, despite repeated reports he received from the security apparatus. In the end, the committee absolved the PM of that charge. It also absolved him of the charge that he moved hastily on October 1, when Arab mobs were blocking Wadi Ara, the “Arab triangle” that connects Hadera on the coast with Afula in central Israel. According to the committee’s report, Barak did not give the order to open up Wadi Ara no matter the cost.
The committee placed much of the blame on Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami and recommended his removal from office. The committee also blamed the riots on Arab religious and political leaders. Hezbollah was also involved in fanning the flames in the Arab community to show solidarity with the PA Arabs’ second intifada.
Minister Ben Gvir told Reshet Bet on Wednesday that his initiatives can bring peace. “There’s a minister here who really wants to change things in Arab society,” he said. “When there will be administrative detentions of crime family members, who will benefit from it? The children in Umm El Fahm. I want to use the Shin Bet against crime families in Arab society because it means I will be removing the head of a biting snake. But whenever I do something, they say I’m just a racist.”