Change needed in Israel's approach to law enforcement in Occupied Territories

Nadav Greenberg [Yesh Din]: "Yesh Din's latest fact sheet [pdf] indicates a disturbing trend. Our findings show that a mere one out of ten cases of settler crimes against Palestinians results in an indictment. This is a troubling reminder of the continuing lack of attention Israel's law enforcement agencies devote to bringing settlers to justice. Because these numbers are very similar to our previous report on law enforcement from 2006, this publication shows that over the past two years very little has been done to strengthen the arm of the law in the Occupied Territories (OT).

The ongoing laxity in bringing settlers to justice is not only a violation of Israel's legal and moral obligations towards the residents of areas under its control, but also a substantial threat to the rule of law in the OT. Lately there has been an alarming trend of settlers committing violent crimes not only against Palestinians, but also against Israeli police and military forces in the West Bank. There is no question that this is a natural product of an environment where legal authority is either weak or absent altogether. The current situation is one in which settlers are protected by the military and police forces in the West Bank, and as a result they are confident that they can do as they please without suffering any legal consequences. A state that is willing to forgo the supremacy of its rule of law and allow its citizens to blatantly disregard the authority of its law enforcement agencies, for whatever reason, is playing with fire.

If this deterioration in the standing of law enforcement in the OT is to be reversed, a complete change of approach is needed throughout Israel's law enforcement apparatus. An institutional reordering of priorities in the police and State Prosecutor's Office, increased manpower (especially Arabic-speaking investigators), more timely responses, and a sustained effort to investigate cases thoroughly and exhaustively are all necessary steps on the way to restoring the rule of law in the OT. If Israel fails to take substantial action in this regard, not only will it be allowing criminals to go unpunished, but it will also be encouraging the development of a state of lawlessness under its watch."

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