Israeli government says it enlists the Shin Bet army and internal security agency as it tries to curb wave of violence in the country’s Arab sector
JERUSALEM – The Israeli government said on Sunday it was enlisting the Shin Bet army and internal security agency as it tried to contain a wave of violence in the Arab sector of the country.
The Arab minority, which represents around 20% of Israel’s population, has been devastated by violent crime in recent years, with a murder rate far exceeding its share of the population. The wave is carried by criminal gangs and family conflicts.
Israeli officials have touted a number of initiatives in recent years, including larger budgets for law enforcement in Arab communities.
The Arab sector has historically suffered from poverty, neglect and discrimination, and residents have shown little confidence in the predominantly Jewish national government. But Arab residents recently called on the government to do more for their communities.
Israel’s new coalition government is the first to include an Arab party among its members. As part of the coalition agreement, the government pledged to devote considerable attention and resources to the Arab sector.
Addressing the first meeting of a special ministerial committee on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the violence had reached a red line and said his government was taking the issue seriously.
“The state is now mobilizing to protect Arab citizens from the scourge of crime and illegal weapons, as well as killings and protection rackets,” he said. “It will take a lot of time, effort and resources. And as the state mobilizes, the Arab public must understand that the security forces are not the enemy, they are the solution.
The committee placed Deputy Public Security Minister Yoav Segalovitz, a former senior police official, in charge of the new effort.
In one of his early rulings, he said the military and the Shin Bet – which typically focus their efforts on Palestinian militants and their enemies abroad – would be used to help confiscate illegal weapons.
“Our government takes the issue very seriously,” Bennett said, adding that he was providing Segalovitz “with the tools and support necessary to succeed in his mission.”