Israeli Police announce 600 extra officers to tackle violent crime in Arab communities

What happened: The Israeli Government and Police have announced new measures to tackle violent crime in Arab communities including an operation to collect firearms and the deployment of an additional 600 police officers.

  • Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and acting Police Commissioner Motti Cohen met yesterday with Arab political leaders and announced the package that will see more police stations opened in Arab communities and new operations by the Police fraud squad to combat organised crime. Joint List leader Ayman Odeh was cautiously optimistic saying  it was: “An important meeting, but our main demand is a government decision and a wide-ranging plan to eradicate violence and crime in Arab society… the talks will continue and the struggle will go on.”

Context: Ahead of the meeting Arab political leaders led a protest convoy of hundreds of vehicles from the north and the south that converged on Jerusalem. The demonstrators drove slowly causing heavy traffic on Israel’s main motorways.

  • Last week the Arab Israeli community held a general strike, protesting the lack of effective policing to combat violent crime, organised crime, domestic violence and so called ‘honour killings’. 73 Arab Israelis have been killed so far this year as a result of violent crimes.
  • Public Security minister Gilad Erdan was criticised for comments last week when he described Arab society as “very violent”. Yesterday he clarified his comments saying that he thought the majority of the Arab public are law abiding and Arab leaders expressed appreciation for his “important clarification.”
  • Leader of the Blue and White party, Benny Gantz, offered his support saying: “The violence in the Arab community is a national problem and therefore it is a challenge first and foremost for the country as well as for the Arab community itself.”

Looking ahead: The Police have not yet announced the details of their plans to collect weapons but a similar operation two years ago, without the support of the Arab communal leadership, led to only three handguns being handed in after 10 days. An official firearms amnesty, with the full support of Arab political leaders could be more successful. Ahmed Tibi MK said he would call on the Arab public to hand in weapons and cooperate with the police. Despite the announcement of extra police officers it is clear that political action and protests will continue. More large scale demonstrations are planned later this month. On 21 and 27 October, protestors will gather outside police headquarters in Nazareth and Ramle and on 27 October organisers plan to set up protest tents outside government offices in Jerusalem.

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