End violence in the Arab sector

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Almost daily we hear news – almost invariably negative news – about the Arab population of Israel, and sayings that something should be done about the situation. However, as in the case of the famous 19th century saying that “everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it”, so in this case, at the moment, very little seems to be actually being done. on this subject, with the exception of interminable ones,
generally unnecessary chatter.

The news is truly appalling: around 100 Arab Israelis have been deliberately murdered or accidentally killed by Arab Israelis since the start of 2021; Arab criminal families demanding money to protect businesses, farms and other premises across the country from criminal acts, most of which are themselves perpetrated; tens of thousands (some say hundreds of thousands) of weapons illegally held in the Arab sector, some of them actually stolen from poorly guarded IDF camps in the south; Young Arabs behaving on the roads of the Negev as if it were the Wild West, and fearlessly harassing and attacking young Jewish women walking alone in the streets of Beersheba and surrounding Jewish towns and settlements.

You don’t have to be an expert to understand that all of this doesn’t have a single cause and that there is no single solution. Underlying the treatment of the problem, there must be a genuine desire and determination to begin to solve the mess, the effective allocation of budgets and manpower important to the mission and the understanding that the people and communities have. Arab authorities should be actively involved in the process, to the extent possible.

Among the issues that must be addressed are the eradication, or at least the weakening of Arab families and criminal organizations; a solution to the phenomenon of unrecognized and subsequently uncontrolled Bedouin settlements in the Negev; the allocation of large budgets to strengthen the weaker parts of Arab society and its civil institutions; and a more serious effort than at present to collect arms illegally held in the Arab sector.

Last week it was announced that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett would be leading a designated team of ministers trying to tackle violence in Arab society. The team, which is to include representatives from the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Finance and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), was supposed to have met for the first time yesterday. Simultaneously, Bennett appointed Deputy Minister of Public Security Yoav Segalovitz (Yesh Atid) to serve as the project manager, coordinating the government’s challenge with the problem of violence and crime in Arab society.

“Darkenu” activists protest rising Arab crime outside the Prime Minister’s office in Tel Aviv during the #Arab_Lives_Matter movement, September 22, 2021 (Credit: DARKENU)

If those who follow the news religiously have a feeling of déjà vu, it is because exactly eight months ago, one month before the fourth round of elections in two years, then Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced, with then-Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana, that he planned to create a ministerial committee for the Arab sector, which he would head, in which 15 billion shekels would be invested, and which “would make a real revolution in Arab society ”.

The immediate plan was to “collect arms in the Arab settlements, invest 100 million shekels in building new police and fire stations, building social institutions, creating a team led by the Council. national security system to prevent weapons leaks, the implementation of a plan to prevent domestic violence in the Arab sector, etc. The project leader, Netanyahu added, was to be retired deputy police commissioner Aharon Franko, who had served in the past as the Jerusalem district commander.

Nothing ever came of this election promise, which was designed to convince Arab voters to vote for Likud. Netanyahu failed to form a government after the election, and even if he did, it is uncertain whether he would have kept his promise.

The current initiative stems from a serious concern about the significant increase in violence and the level of crime in Arab society (currently almost half of Israeli prisoners are Israeli Arabs, although Israeli Arabs constitute around 20%. of the total population). The coalition agreement the current government signed with Ra’am (United Arab List) – the first Arab party to join an Israeli coalition – mentions the need to act against violence and lawlessness in Arab society.

What gives hope that during this cycle something will actually be done to remedy the unbearable situation is the fact that the new project manager, Segalovitz – a retired deputy police commissioner, who occupied his last post in the police force as commander of the investigation and intelligence division – sees the problem of violence in Arab society as a personal project. In the 23rd Knesset, he led two MP lobbies: one dealing with political corruption and the other with violence in the Arab sector. He firmly believes that in order to face this problem, it is essential to try to destroy the economic infrastructure of organized crime and prevent criminals from serving as role models in Arab society, and not to focus solely on more visible police activities.

Of course, it’s not enough to have a suitable project manager in charge. Without sufficient funding and without a sufficient designated workforce, there will be no results. Whether it is desirable to directly involve the GSS in the project is also an issue that will need to be seriously addressed, both because Arab citizens are wary of it and because it is known to have working contacts with Arab criminal families.

Finally, the success of the project is important not only for peace and tranquility within the country, but also for the further integration of Arab citizens of Israel into Israeli society, which, even today – 73 years after the creation of the state – cannot be taken for granted.

The writer was a researcher at the Knesset Research and Information Center until his retirement, and recently published a book in Hebrew, The Job of the Knesset Member – An Undefined Job, which will soon be published in English by Routledge.


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