Barak and Ben Ami Shirk Responsibility for the Events of October 2000


On 19-20 November 2001, Shlomo Ben Ami and Ehud Barak, the Minister of Internal Security and the Prime Minister respectively in October 2000, testified before the Commission of Inquiry (“the Commission”).  The testimonies addressed the foreseeability of the demonstrations, the orders they issued to the police during the events, and their investigations directly following the events of October 2000.


Testimony regarding the foreseeability of the events of October 2000


Barak and Ben Ami testified that they had not predicted the demonstrations by Palestinian citizens of Israel in October 2000.  Ben Ami stated that while he expected that something would take place, he had no specific evidence.  Barak said that one cannot predict such demonstrations, that Israeli intelligence had not foreseen these events and that there was nothing to prevent them from doing so had the events been foreseeable.  However, their testimonies contradict facts and testimonies before the Commission, which indicate that the events of October 2000 were foreseen days before they began and that preparations had been made for such events months prior to their occurrence.


On 7 November 2001, Barak’s military secretary, Gadi Eizenkot testified before the Commission that on 29 September 2000, after the killing of seven Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Barak conducted an evaluation of the general situation and asked the police to prepare for widespread demonstrations by Palestinian citizens in Israel.  It is evident that this was not a random request since Barak had ordered a general training in May 2000 to prepare for the possibility of such demonstrations.  On 6 September 2000, one month before the demonstrations, this training, called “Storm Wind,” was conducted in police headquarters in Shefa’amr; Ben Ami participated in this drill.  Such activities were part of the general governmental preparations, called the “melody magic,” which had been made since 1998, as indicated in the Commission testimonies of Shlomo Torjiman, the Deputy of the Operations Department in Ben Ami’s office, and Head of Police Intelligence Haim Klein.  The “melody magic” plan was designed to confront demonstrations by Palestinian citizens of Israel should Israel suppress a one-sided Palestinian declaration of statehood.  One of the “Storm Wind” scenarios was the eruption of demonstrations during which many Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line would be injured during a large event in Jerusalem.


Testimony regarding Ariel Sharon’s visit to Haram al-Sharif (Temple Mount) on 28 September 2000


Barak and Ben Ami testified before the Commission that they had both approved of the decision to permit then-MK Ariel Sharon to enter the Haram al-Sharif area.  Ben Ami testified that he had received the assurance of Jibril Rajoub (the Palestinian Authority’s Chief of Preventive Security in the West Bank) that as long as Sharon did not enter the mosques, there was no need to worry.  Ben Ami also added that it would be unreasonable to refuse a permit to the head of the main opposition party to enter the Haram al-Sharif area when representatives of radical parties can do so.  However, when questioned by Commission member Judge Hashem Khatib, Ben Ami and Barak failed to give an explanation for permitting the visit in light of the concerns of the head of the Jerusalem police station, Yair Yitzhaki, who opposed the granting of such permission and stated on 27 September 2000 that the visit might raise tensions.


The use of snipers in Jerusalem, Umm al-Fahem, Nazareth


Barak and Ben Ami testified that they did not know about the use of snipers in Umm al-Fahem and Nazareth. Former Police Chief Yehuda Vilk told the Commission that on 29 September 2000, he informed Ben Ami about the use of snipers against demonstrators that day at Haram al-Sharif, and stated that Ben Ami showed no opposition to their use in this instance.  On the contrary, in a closed meeting after the events of 29 September 2000, Ben Ami legitimized and justified the use of excessive force by stating, “They were throwing stones from a distance of five meters.”  When questioned by Judge Khatib, Ben Ami stated that he did not know about the written national police orders of 2, 4 and 5 October 2000, which permitted the use of snipers against demonstrators.  Judge Khatib stated that other such written police orders may also exist.




Barak and Ben Ami also failed to explain to the Commission why they did not order the police to open an immediate investigation into the numerous killings and injuries that occurred during the demonstrations; such an investigation would have provided an early explanation.  Ben Ami stated that the police did not tell the truth to the governmental officials, while Barak stated that he did not order an investigation due to the chaotic situation in the midst of the political crisis which began after the failed negotiations with the Palestinians.


The orders of Barak and Ben Ami and their support for the police


Barak and Ben Ami testified that their orders to the police regarding their response to the demonstrators were reasonable, and that they did not order the use of additional force beyond that normally permitted to Israeli police. They also testified that they did not order the clearing of main roads, such as the Wadi Ara road, by force.  In contrast, former Commander of the Northern District Police Alik Ron stated in his testimony to the Commission that on 2 October 2000, he received orders to disperse the demonstrators from the road of Wadi Ara from Vilk, who attended a meeting with Ben Ami at Barak’s home the previous evening.  During this meeting, participants were informed of the large demonstrations at Wadi Ara that day as well as the killing of one demonstrator and the injury of many others.  Despite these events, Barak ordered the police to clear demonstrators from the main roads and gave them a “green light” to use any means necessary.  In an interview with Reshet Bet radio station on the morning of 2 October 2000, Barak said,


“We cannot accept and will not accept either the blocking of roads or disruption of the ordinary lives, by citizens inside the state.  In a discussion which went into the night yesterday at my home, I instructed the Minister of Internal Security and the police commanders who, by the way, deserve great compliments for their self-restraint yesterday during the demonstrations, but I told them that you have a green light for any action necessary to bring about the rule of law, to preserve public order and to secure freedom of movement for the citizens of the state, anywhere in the state.”


On the morning of 2 October 2000, Ma’ariv reported that an Israeli police source had indicated that the police had begun to work according to their procedures to be used during wartime.  In addition, Ma’ariv reported that the police’s expectations of demonstrations by Palestinians inside Israel were becoming real:


“Israeli police yesterday were put on the highest level of alert, ‘Paam Gimel,’ typically reserved for wartime use.  The Israeli police are now working according to procedures that had been intended for a situation in which a Palestinian state was unilaterally declared.  The police claim that the most radical scenarios predicted by these plans have come to pass, namely demonstrations by Israeli Arabs, almost at the heart of the state.”


2 October 2000 was the day with the highest number of killings and injury of demonstrators during the weeks of violence.  When the Commission asked Barak why he commented that evening that, “The work of the police was excellent,” he replied that the police cannot function without support.  Barak continued to provide this support, particularly for Alik Ron, who, according to Barak, “contributed a great deal for the security of Israel.”  When Ben Ami was asked about his declarations of support to the police after 2 October 2000, he answered that he only gave support publicly and that his orders to the police during closed meetings were of a different tone.  The Commission noted that the official protocols of these closed meetings reflect that Ben Ami continued to support the police during such meetings as well.


The Commission expressed its grave concern that Ben Ami’s assistants had prepared the material for his testimony, and that Ben Ami had allowed them to do so, even though they were scheduled to testify before the Commission after having made such preparations.  Although he had not been asked by the Commission, during his testimony, Barak blamed the Arab political leadership in Israel, particularly the National Democratic Assembly (Balad) and the Abna al-Balad parties, for the events of October 2000.  In contrast, Ben Ami did not blame the Arab political leadership, even when questioned by the Commission about the role of the Arab Members of Knesset during the demonstrations.


Based on the information known to the Commission, Barak and Ben Ami:


1.       Had foreseen the demonstrations of October 2000 and prepared accordingly;

2.       Issued orders to the police to open the main roads by any means necessary;

3.       Gave their full support to the police in their handling of the demonstrations, including the failure to prevent further killings and injuries;

4.       Made no effort to launch an immediate investigation into the events of October 2000.


As the heads of the Israeli security forces during these events, Barak and Ben Ami had a duty to prevent the killings and injury of demonstrators.  Yet, Barak and Ben Ami not only failed to prevent these occurrences, they issued orders legitimizing the use of excessive force, even after learning of the killings on 1 October 2000.  Barak and Ben Ami continued to offer their support to the police throughout these events.  Based on both national and international legal standards, it is Adalah’s position that Barak and Ben Ami have a direct responsibility for the killing of 13 Palestinian Arab citizen demonstrators of Israel and the injury of hundreds more during October 2000.