Speaking ahead of the meeting, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the situation must be addressed immediately.
“The situation regarding violence in the Arab sector has reached a red line,” Bennett said at the rally at the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem. “The problem was sidelined and neglected for years until it reached outrageous proportions, as we have seen over the past year. “
“Our government takes the issue very seriously,” Bennett said, noting the creation of an “interdepartmental task force” led by Yoav Segalovitz, deputy minister of public safety and retired police major-general.
In addition to the creation of the working group, the Prime Minister’s office published a series of decisions taken at the end of the meeting on Sunday afternoon.
The task force led by Segalovitz will focus – together with the IDF and the Shin Bet – on the issue of illegal weapons in the Arab sector, the prime minister’s office said. The Justice Department will promote a series of laws to provide law enforcement with better tools to crack down on illegal guns, including minimum sentences for offenses.
Israeli Arabs protest against violence, organized crime and recent killings within their communities in the Arab town of Majd al-Krum, in northern Israel. October 3, 2019 (David Cohen / FLASH90)
However, following the announcement from the prime minister’s office, IDF officials expressed concern that they were not involved in decision-making – and that they did not have the proper legal status to operate in civilian areas. “No one spoke to anyone or consulted the Defense Ministry’s IDF,” a meeting official told Channel 12. “IDF soldiers do not have the powers that police use in arrests and raids. “
Arab Israeli politicians criticized the decision, calling it undemocratic.
“Fight criminals, not democracy. The only responsibility for law enforcement among civilians is the police, not the intelligence agencies and the military… The last thing we need is more of the same attitude: police for Jews and the Shin Bet for the Arabs, ”Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said in a tweet.
Odeh’s colleague Sami Abou Shehadah of the radical nationalist party Balad said the move proved that “the State of Israel treats Arab citizens as a security threat, not as civilians.”
Bennett called the meeting, which included a range of senior law enforcement officials – including justice, public security and home ministers, the attorney general and the future Shin Bet chief – then that a wave of violence engulfed many Arab communities in Israel. According to The Abraham Nonprofit Initiatives, 95 Arabs have been killed so far in violent crimes this year inside Israel.
On Friday, an Israeli Arab suspected of being linked to organized crime was shot dead in Haifa. Last Friday, a man who was also believed to have been linked to the underworld was shot dead in Nazareth. A day later, a 30-year-old Israeli Arab was shot dead in Beer Sheva.
In recent years, Arab Israelis have seen increased violence: gang assassinations in broad daylight, gunfire at the homes of local mayors, and thousands of illegal and easily accessible weapons.
Government officials and civil society experts say the violence is the product of decades of state neglect. More than half of Israeli Arabs live below the poverty line. Their towns and villages often have crumbling infrastructure, poor public services, and few job prospects, leading young people to collaborate with organized crime for quick cash.
Bennett called on members of the Arab Israeli community to cooperate with law enforcement, specifically calling on “elected officials, Arab public figures, Arab sector media figures and others” to express their public support. “The entire Arab public must support the state,” he said.
The prime minister said the government “is mobilizing to protect Arab citizens from the scourge of crime and illegal weapons, as well as killings and protection rackets,” an effort that “will take considerable time, effort and resources. “.
Meanwhile, Bennett said, “the Arab public must understand that the security forces are not the enemy – they are the solution”, calling on them to “cooperate fully in the war against crime and violence in the sector. Arabic ”.
Bennett said that in recent years a “state within a state” has developed in Israel and that it will take considerable time to fully address the problem. “Coping with this magnitude won’t take a day or two, but we are there,” he said. “We are taking action and will continue to do so. ”