The Cabinet, at its weekly meeting today (Sunday, 29 June 2014), approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's plan for the socio-economic development of Jerusalem. Pursuant to Basic Law: Jerusalem Capital of Israel, the Government is working in a variety of ways to develop and strengthen the city. This is the first time that a comprehensive socio-economic development will be formulated and implemented for eastern Jerusalem. One of the main goals of the plan that was approved is to bring about a significant decline in violence by means of integrated activity to reduce gaps in infrastructure, employment, education and social welfare and by boosting enforcement and personal security. The basic assumption for the civic aspects of the plan is the existence of a deep link between the scope and level of violence by residents of eastern Jerusalem and the standard of living in neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat and Israel Police Jerusalem District Police commander Yossi Farenty attended today's Cabinet meeting.
In light of the increase in incidents of violence and stone-throwing in the area, a professional team led by Prime Minister's Office Director General Harel Locker and Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mendelblit held – in recent months – comprehensive discussions along with Jerusalem Mayor Barkat and representatives of the relevant Government ministries on effective ways to deal with the situation in eastern Jerusalem.
The team concentrated on three aspects: Enforcement, legislative and civic. This decision arranges the team's recommendations on increasing personal security and on civic and economic matters. An additional Cabinet decision that was formulated by Cabinet Secretary Mendelblit in coordination with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein and the State Attorney's Office, and which was also approved today, deals with strengthening enforcement capabilities regarding stone-throwing offenses and complements the above decision.
306,000 residents live in eastern Jerusalem and constitute 38% of the city's population as well as approximately 20% of the minority population of the country. Their civil status is that of residents and not citizens. The socio-economic situation in eastern Jerusalem is among the lowest in the country and is characterized by an especially high rate of children and families below the poverty line, a low rate of participation in the labor force and an especially high rate of school drop-outs (30%).
It should be noted that in recent years there has been an upsurge in acts of violence and stone-throwing in the eastern part of the city. Pursuant to data provided by the Israel Police, in March-April 2014 alone, approximately 990 files were opened in the region for violent offenses including – inter alia – disturbing the peace, attacking police officers and robbery.
It was also reported that there were approximately 390 incidents of stone-throwing at security forces, and civilian and security vehicles in the eastern part of the city, as well as dozens of cases of stolen vehicles and break-ins. These are offenses with nationalist characteristics that are not perpetrated in a similar scope in other parts of the country. These displays of violence are being perpetrated in the capital of the State of Israel, close to the holiest sites of the three major faiths, which have considerable tourist and public diplomacy significance and which draw pilgrims from around the world.
Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett was involved in submitting the plan as were representatives from Mayor Barkat's office, the State Attorney's office and the Attorney General's office and the Public Security, Economy, Social Affairs and Social Services, Construction and Housing and Education ministries. According to Israel Police assessments, the plan will lead to a significant decline in the short- and medium-term of over 50% in displays of violence.
The main points of the plan
The plan emphasizes the advancement of children and young people in the 10-35 age bracket. According to various mapping analyses, including by the Israel police, young people are easily influenced and are more inclined to take part in violent, nationalist or other activities; investing in the younger population has the potential to serve as an impetus for change.
In the field of socio-economic development, the plan will focus on four fields of action:
1. Improving physical infrastructures: Improving the level of infrastructures in eastern Jerusalem in all areas – drainage, sewage, water, electricity, roads and sidewalks, as well as carrying out an infrastructures survey in the area.
2. Education, vocational education and higher education: In order to work toward improving the socio-economic situation of the population and in order to create an economic alternative for residents of the eastern part of the city, it has been proposed to advance plans in the field of education, higher education and vocational training including pre-academic classes, increasing the study of Hebrew in schools and enacting plans to prevent dropping out. It was also decided to enact a city-without-violence plan in five neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem.
3. Offering various, accessible employment possibilities: Due to the severe socio-economic situation in eastern Jerusalem neighborhoods and due to the difficulty of integrating with the conclusion of academic studies, in light of clause two above, many young people drop out of studies in order to assist in earning a living for their families. The difficulty of concluding studies, alongside the negative expectation of integrating into the labor force with a Palestinian matriculation certificate and limited employment possibilities, significantly reduce the motivation to conclude studies and lead to a high drop-out rate and a smaller chance of in finding quality employment.
4. Social affairs: Adding social workers and youth workers, building recreational facilities and operating youth recreation programs, enrichment classes and programs for children and youth at risk.
Increasing personal security:
In light of crime data, police presence in the area will be increased, both physically and technologically. In the framework of boosting security, a security system based on technological means and warning systems will be established. The plan is based on three assumptions vis-à-vis enforcement and preventing violence: A) Awareness via cameras, increasing police personnel in the area and pinpoint action. The Public Security Ministry will be responsible for implementing the plan to boost personal security and police presence in the area in 2014-2017; the plan will include – inter alia – planning the deployment of infrastructure and technology and the start of implementation, locating an appropriate site and planning construction, issuing licenses and permits, recruiting personnel and the purchase of equipment.
The Cabinet also adopted a plan to deal with stone-throwing offenses and is designed to provide authorities with effective law enforcement tools for trying and detaining those involved in such offenses. In this context, a draft memorandum will be circulated on the specific subject of throwing stones at vehicles (which is currently lacking).