In an unprecedented move, the Israel Police is expected to appoint a Muslim deputy commissioner. He is to head a special police branch focusing on problems facing the crime-plagued Arab sector.
The branch is expected to be headed by Dep.-Ch. Jamal Hakrush, today the deputy head of the Coastal District and a Muslim from Kafr Kana, an Arab town north of Nazareth. He previously served as the deputy head of the Traffic Police.
Deputy commissioner is the second-highest rank in the Israel Police, and is typically held by a district commander or head of a police branch.
There has been no official police announcement of the promotion, which was first reported Thursday, though police sources confirmed to The Jerusalem Post
that the move is expected as early as next week.
The new police branch is meant to focus on issues facing the Arab sector, with emphasis on providing police services where they are lacking. The plan includes the construction of what police hope will be more than 10 new police stations in Arab communities, as well as the recruitment of more than 1,300 police from the sector over the next five years.
On Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan vowed that the police will increase their manpower in the Arab sector and boost law enforcement and police recruitment within the wider Muslim community across the country.
The heightened enforcement would be part of a wider effort countrywide in the coming years, to be achieved mainly through increased foot patrols by police officers, Erdan said.
The minister’s remarks came during a ceremony at the Border Police station in Lod to mark the beginning of Asst.-Ch. Kobi Shabtai’s term as the agency’s commissioner.
Erdan’s comments followed ones made by Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Roni Alsheich earlier this week, when he told a Knesset committee meeting that the level of crime in the Arab sector is “unacceptable,” causing great suffering in particular to those citizens.
“The situation is unacceptable and the ones who suffer the most are first and foremost Arab civilians, and afterward the other sectors of society. There is a very powerful desire in the Arab sector to strengthen the police work there, and over the decades we haven’t done this,” Alsheich said.
He presented figures from 2015, which stated that although Arabs make up only about 21 percent of the population of Israel, 59% of murders and 55% of attempted murders take place in the sector.
In addition, 58% of arsons, 47% of robberies and 32% of property crimes reported to police are in the Arab community, according to the data.
The issue of crime in the Arab sector in Israel – and particular the vast number of illegal firearms in those communities – has been a major concern expressed repeatedly by Arab politicians and communal leaders in recent years, but reached far greater prominence in January, following a New Year’s Day terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that left three people dead. The murderer, an Israeli Arab from Wadi Ara named Nashat Milhem, used a submachine gun that his father, a former volunteer police officer, had a legal permit to possess.
During the ceremony in Lod on Thursday, Alsheich said he received a photograph from a colleague on Wednesday, of a moment of silence held this week by members of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in honor of Hadar Cohen, the 19-year-old Border Police officer killed in a terrorist attack at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem last Wednesday.