Violence doesn’t start with the police monitoring the roads, in squares or on bridges that are crowded with masses of protesters every night, and especially on the weekends. Nor does it begin with the Jerusalem police chief or even officials in the district or national headquarters.
The violence begins at the Prime Minister’s Residence.
It’s not incidental violence, the result of events that take place at the demonstrations or the reaction to emotions that suddenly got out of control at a particular moment or an overly harsh response to the unrestrained behavior or the demonstrators.
This violence is premeditated.
The prime minister and his disturbed son plan this violence. I wrote here in this column some time ago that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is after blood.
Until someone bleeds, it’s impossible to force a closure under which protests are forbidden.
Only when there will be bloodshed will it be possible to prevent the mass gatherings that are sending a clear message to the people occupying the house on Balfour Street who soon will need to leave and begin taking care of their own private affairs that will have nothing to do with state affairs.
I am familiar with the Jerusalem Police force – better than most of the people protesting, and perhaps even better than Public Security Minister Amir Ohana. I was with these police officers a generation ago, during some of the most difficult days modern Jerusalem has ever experienced. It was the era of the Second Intifada, when instead of protesters gathering on the streets, buses were exploding on them. There would be pieces of people’s bodies scattered around everywhere. In those days, the police had to deal with terrorists who ambushed innocent citizens sitting in the city’s cafés and shopping in local stores.
In those days, police officers were humane, generous and restrained. Their main goal was to protect people’s lives with courage and determination. There were many times when I had the urge to hug them and thank them for the incredible dedication they displayed in those days of distress, shock and pain that permeated throughout the city and affected the entire community. So many people were killed in those terrorist attacks, and thousands were injured and continued to suffer from shock and anxiety for many years to come. Countless people lost the ability to function and carry on with their daily lives, some for a short period of time and others for the rest of their lives.
That was the Jerusalem Police force that I was very proud of. I admired its ability to function properly, and I respected its leaders who served with confidence, determination and resourcefulness as they labored to save people’s lives.
The current Jerusalem Police force – including its Special Patrol Unit that is dedicated to security, riot and crowd control – and its commanders on all levels, is different. They have not been educated to be this way, but they are inspired by leaders who want violent confrontation.
The more violence and confrontation, the more protesters clash with police officers, the closer we get to reaching the goal set by the prime minister and his family.
The time has come to say these words out loud without hesitation: Benjamin Netanyahu wants to bring about a civil war that will lead to the murder of policemen, of young and old protesters and innocent civilians who happen to be in the vicinity of where demonstrations are taking place. He’s hoping the violence is as brutal and bloody as possible.
I oppose the political path Netanyahu has taken. I disagree with all of the moves he has taken, and I don’t believe that he will follow through with his commitments and declarations. How could I? However, I was hoping that at some point during his fight to survive he would show restraint that would define the boundaries of the public struggle, but I was wrong. It turns out that Netanyahu’s wounded soul has crossed every boundary. Our prime minister is suffering from a psychotic anxiety attack. He lives in fear he will fall from the high peaks where he feels like he belongs down into an abyss of humiliation and defeat, which at the end of the day will bring him to a place where he will need to account for all of the terrible things he’s done.
Certainly, there’s no disputing that Netanyahu is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. However it is a shallow slogan. First and foremost because he himself is the only person who does not believe it. People who believe in their own innocence don’t incite, insult, offend, quarrel and wage personal wars against prosecutors, the attorney general, police officers and judges. Netanyahu is in an irrational race to raise the level of incitement because he knows that the moment he is forced to stand in court, the presumption of his innocence will crash. When that moment arrives, he will have to listen to the testimonies of people who used to be his closest aides, his most loyal supporters, who did anything and everything he or his delusional wife wanted. Finally, all of his deeds will be exposed for all to see.
It’s clear that following the High Court decision, Netanyahu is allowed to continue serving as prime minister. According to the ruling, the indictment does not conflict with his formal ability to continue in his role as leader of the country, so long as a majority of members of Knesset support the government he leads. In the meantime, there is a majority, primarily because of the agreement he signed with Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who volunteered to carry the stretcher on their shoulders hoping and believing that the prime minister would take care of state affairs and the plight of hundreds of thousands of unemployed people.
But now, it’s clear to everyone that Netanyahu is not interested in taking responsibility in any of these areas. He’s not really concerned about anyone else. There are quite a large number of citizens, perhaps more than he estimated when this process began, who want him out of the Prime Minister’s Office.
As hope is lost that the legal process could save Netanyahu, the pandemic continues to worsen, the number of severely ill patients on respirators does not diminish and the budget deficit is at unprecedented level and hundreds of thousands people are worried about making ends meet, Netanyahu has lost faith in his ability to stop the tide that is coming in and threatening his personal freedom, his future and his survival.
The only weapon he still has at his disposal is to incite violence. I say this precisely because I once was in a similar position. I was exposed to unfair criticism from Netanyahu himself and others whom he paid to demonstrate against me and work to undermine the government I led.
Under those circumstances, and in light of the police investigations, the wild incitement carried out by political rivals led by Netanyahu, I acted differently since I believed that acting with restraint and not crossing certain lines that I set for myself, even when I had to pay a high personal and perhaps also public price, was the right thing to do no matter how difficult and painful it may be.
Today, I have the moral right to express these difficult words: Netanyahu wants blood. The real blood of citizens and of police officers. He is an expert in generating incitement, in causing strife and fostering factionalism. This is the path he took during his first campaign for prime minister, over the body of the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Now, he’s hoping to pave the path to undermining Israel’s democratic way of life, so that it could help him ban the legitimate demonstrations carried out by hundreds of thousands of citizens who are fed up with him for firing the attorney-general, shutting down the prosecution, and freezing court activity in an effort to save himself.
The police force is getting dragged into this commotion against its will. There’s no doubt that many police officers, including senior officials, are losing their ability to remain objective and restrained in their commitment amidst the chaos created by the house on Balfour Street. Everyone here – the police officers and protesters alike – are victims of this atmosphere of incitement that is being crated by Benjamin and Yair Netanyahu, along with their supporters and spokespeople who are being dragged along after them.
It’s not going to end well. The future of the State of Israel is at stake. The stability of its institutions are being brought into question and the basic rules of the game are being undermined, without which there is not possibility for hope.
We are moving so close to the point of no return when it will no longer be possible to control what’s happening on the streets.
The residents of the house on Balfour Street are indeed beaten people. They are doomed and haunted by fears. They are in conflict with themselves, with their souls, with their status as human beings. They are no longer qualified to take responsibility for themselves or for us.
If they were just regular citizens, it is extremely likely that the district psychiatrist would have ordered them be involuntarily hospitalized. Under the current circumstances, it’s the public that needs to issue the restraining order. It will arrive soon enough. Let’s hope it will precede the earthquake that could destroy everything that has been built in this country.
Header: Police remove protesters from outside the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on Thursday of last week. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
Original: Ehud Olmert – JPost
The writer was the 12th prime minister of Israel.