In an interview in the weekend edition of Haaretz, former Attorney General Meni Mazuz spoke clearly: Israel utterly fails when it comes to law enforcement on West Bank settlers

What is the state of law enforcement in the territories? Meni Mazuz, until recently the Attorney General, had some sharp words to say about it. In an interview to Ha’aretz this weekend (Hebrew), Mazuz said that “this isn’t the Wild West, more like the Wild East. There’s no doubt it’s wild. There’s not a doubt that there are phenomena there which would be inconceivable within the State of Israel without being treated immediately and harshly.” Mazuz says things very clearly, which the government makes sure not to say: He simply calls the phenomenon of “price tag” attacks “terrorism.”

Mazuz also has some poignant analysis about the reasons for the failure of law enforcement. To start with, he speaks about the conspiracy of silence among the settlers regarding the violence some of them are committing against Palestinians. Criminality, he says, is generally considered to be a sideline phenomenon; here we are dealing with ideological crimes, carried out by normative people supported by their community. Hence, “there is an evident phenomenon of silence and support.”

Mazuz further notes that some of the people responsible for law enforcement live in the West Bank themselves, “which creates an almost impossible reality, from the human perspective,” and that the higher level functionaries simply don’t want to deal with the issue. He correctly identifies the major force in law non-enforcement: The army. “The army, which is the land lord of the place, never saw its duty as law enforcement, even though it is the first force on the ground when felonies are committed.” The IDF, notes Mazuz, prefers to see itself as a fighting force, not a police force, but “legally, the responsibility for maintaining law and order in the territories lies with the army.”

The main reason for the army not doing its job is, according to Mazuz, is contradicting messages it receives from the political leadership. He estimates that were the leadership to speak unequivocally, this ideological criminality may have been fought, but “without true cooperation and support from them [the political leadership – YZG], the ability to launch a significant effort similar to the battle against public corruption and organized crime is non-existent. And the political and security establishment oscillates between unwillingness to carry it out and outright resistance.”

Readers who follow this blog would not be surprised by anything Mazuz said. Soldiers who do not enforce the law on Jewish lawbreakers? Saw the movie, got the t-shirt. Is there a clearer case than army forces securing an illegal outpost while its residents aren’t even there? An army which can’t defend Palestinians, even though it is its legal duty, upheld by the HCJ time and time again? Check. Incompetence in the face of settler ideological criminality? Been there.

Collaboration between the political establishment and settlers to bypass the law? We dedicated a whole report to it, “The Road to Dispossession“, documenting how all of the authorities conspire to make possible the existence of an illegal outpost, while the police and the prosecution strangely and repeatedly fail to fight the violence that the very existence of the outpost – Adei Ad – engenders. Police investigations which somehow, always fail? Inexplicable incompetence in investigation? We dedicated a report – one of our earliest, from 2006 – to this phenomenon, and you can read it here. If you examine the issue six years later, you can see little changed: Our fact sheet, dated early 2012, shows 84% of investigations closed by the police were closed due to investigative failure.

The most serious statements are attributed not to Mazuz himself, but to a senior prosecution official who worked with him. According to him, during one of the meetings Mazuz said that “law enforcement on Israelis in the territories will succeed only when no Israelis will be there.” Those words, which Mazuz has yet to say publicly and for attribution, touch the real, cancerous problem of the occupation: You can speak loftily about law enforcement and loyalty to the rule of law, but where different laws apply to different ethnic populations; where one person is sentenced in a military court while his neighbor is judged in a civil Israeli court (under the suspect assumption he is actually indicted); where one is exposed to a system of zealous enforcement for even the most minor of offenses, and the other enjoys an investigative system where negligence becomes a form of art; where one lives under curfew and may expect a night raid on his house in case of a minor felony (or even without it), and the other enjoys all the rights of a developed legal systems; when one is exposed to tear gas even though he is not violent, and the other may only experience it due to the caprice of the wind; when one lacks all ability to influence the laws under which he lives, while the other enjoys a respectable, some would say overabundant, representation in parliament – in short, when the situation resembles Apartheid, the very idea of law enforcement becomes a cruel joke.

It is of course distressing that Mazuz said what he said several years after leaving office, but it seems we have become accustomed to the public norm of a senior official or officer seeing the light only after their retirement. Better late than never.