Israel cannot allow pockets of the country to have lax gun law enforcement, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday evening, visiting the site of Friday’s shooting on Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.
Shortly after police publicized the name of the suspected gunman, 31-year-old Nashat Milhem of Arara, Netanyahu spoke out about the need to fight incitement and increase law enforcement in Israeli-Arab areas.
There are many among Muslim Israeli citizens who have come out against the violence and are crying out for full law enforcement in their towns. At the same time, we all know that there is wild incitement by radical Islam against the State of Israel in the Arab sector. Incitement in mosques, in the education system, on social media,” he said, vowing to continue efforts to stop the incitement.
The prime minister said he is unwilling to have a state within a state in Israel, in which some citizens live in “enclaves with no law enforcement, with Islamist incitement and an abundance of illegal weapons that are often fired at happy events, weddings, and during endless criminal incidents.”
“That time is over,” Netanyahu declared.
Netanyahu said he, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich put together a plan to dramatically increase law enforcement services in Arab areas throughout the country, including building more police stations and recruiting more police officers.
“We will demand loyalty to the laws of the state from everyone,” he stated. “One cannot say ‘I am Israeli in my rights and Palestinian in my responsibilities.’ Whoever wants to be Israeli, must be Israeli all the way, with rights and responsibilities, and the first and foremost responsibility is to follow the laws of the state.”
The prime minister commended Israeli Arabs who enlist in the IDF or do national service.
“I call on all Israeli citizens, and especially Muslim Israeli citizens, to follow this path, a path of integration, coexistence and peace, and not a path of incitement, hatred and zealotry. We are all citizens of the State,” he said.
Netanyahu also said he appreciated members of the Israeli Arab public who spoke out against the attack, and called on all Arab MKs to condemn it “without stuttering or using euphemisms; murder is murder and must be denounced.”
Upon arriving at the site of the attack, Erdan and Alsheich updated Netanyahu on the search for the attacker and spoke to one of the owners of the pub.
“The police and Shin Bet are working non-stop to catch the murderer,” Netanyahu said.
“There are forces in all relevant areas. We ask the public to be as alert as possible.”
As for the gag order on details about Milhem, which lasted for over 24 hours, the prime minister said “everything we say could be used by the murderer.
The police is working comprehensively and systematically and I cannot give more details, and that’s good. We are looking for a needle in a haystack.”
Erdan commended security forces for their efforts during the current wave of terrorism.
“We are dealing with a new type of terrorism. There is no organization or a clear guiding hand that can be identified, as we had in the past.
This requires security forces to make changes in their modes of operation, and I think they were made and are being made all the time,” he said.
The Public Security Minister pointed out that the shooting lasted about 20 seconds and police officers were at the site within three minutes.
“The public knows that police stopped dozens of attacks and defends the people of Israel, sometimes with their bodies.
Civilians also help a lot, and I want to thank them for what they have done time after time to stop attacks,” Erdan said.
Erdan also spoke in favor of a bill that is on the Ministerial Committee for Legislation’s agenda for Sunday, that would allow security guards to carry their firearms after work hours, and said he wanted to make the process for acquiring a gun license easier.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog (Zionist Union) speculated that the attack could be related to Islamic State, because it is different from other recent attacks.
“We have to make every effort to see if it’s related to the phenomenon of ISIS,” he said. “I trust security forces, the police and Shin Bet, to do everything, even in the storm and the rain, to find the despicable murderer and, of course, whoever sent him or is connected to him.”
Herzog called the Israeli public heroes, saying Israelis are strong and are “dealing with this phenomenon in a very dignified and impressive way.”
“Anyone trying to harm Israeli citizens... should know we will continue, non-stop, to smile, laugh and love, and fight terrorism,” he stated.
Herzog also called for the government to “initiate diplomatic moves that can change the situation.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid called for increased efforts to collect illegal firearms.
“We have to take care of the problem of guns in the Arab population,” he said at a cultural event in Ramat Gan.
“There are massive quantities of weapons going around... and the time has come to take care of it. We cannot continue ignoring it.”
Lapid said law enforcement should be doubled in Arab areas, including increasing police stations, in order to collect the illegal guns.
Earlier, Lapid wrote on Facebook that all citizens with gun licenses should not leave their homes without their firearm.
Like Erdan, MK Amir Ohana (Likud) said he plans to promote an easing of regulations regarding who can acquire a gun license.
“The goal is that every citizen without a relevant criminal or medical record who does reserve duty can carry a gun with a license if he wants,” Ohana wrote on Facebook.
“Yes, we can assume there will be more accidents... but there is no basis for the assumption that more lives will be lost from the accidents than the lives that will be saved in a terrorism- plagued country like ours.
More licensed gun carriers equals more terrorists neutralized at the site [of an attack] equals fewer human lives lost.”
MK Yoel Hasson (Zionist Union) criticized Lapid and Ohana, saying that “a gun isn’t a smartphone” and pointing out that over 200,000 Israelis have gun licenses and there are 14,000 illegal guns in the country.
“Is that not enough for you? Do you want to add more?” he asked. “It’s important to remember that the Israel Police is responsible for security on the streets. The easing [of gun license rules] will only increase the chances of harmful shootings, especially in light of the tension. MKs should speak more responsibly, even if it means giving up a headline.”