Blaming a lack of local leadership and government support, Welfare and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen said Thursday that annually, around 50 percent of murdered Israelis are Arabs despite the fact they make up around 20 percent of the population.

He made the statement at a conference in Kafr Kasim on decreasing violence in the Israeli Arab sector that was attended by politicians, government officials, NGOs, and police.

The gathering had police representatives exchanging views with Arab community leaders about how to improve cooperation.

Sheikh Kamil Ahmad Rayan, the head of the Aman Center – The Arab Center for a Safe Society, told The Jerusalem Post that the time has come for the police and Arabs “to make a switch” and treat each other with respect instead of suspicion.

Reda Jaber, the executive manager of the Aman Center told the Post that the conference marks a step in mobilizing the cooperation between the police and the Arab community to deal with the problem of violence.

“Arabs used to view the police with mistrust, but that is not the case anymore,” he said.

The conference was organized by the Aman Center – The Arab Center for a Safe Society in cooperation with The Abraham Fund Initiatives, the Union of Local Authorities In Israel, The National Committee of the Heads of Arab Localities, and the city of Kafr Kasim.

The Education Ministry and various Arab MKs also participated.

Bruno Stein, the commander of the Israel Police’s Central District, said bluntly that there needs to be a change from within Arab society in order to decrease violence in the sector.

He said that the police must also improve, and sitting with local municipality heads is a valuable way to improve cooperation and effectiveness.

Nohad Ali, a sociologist from the University of Haifa, presented his research that will be published in a book next month, in cooperation with the Aman Center and Haifa University, which collected data from 2007-2013 on violence in Arab society.

Ali said that the Israeli Arab sector has one of the highest levels of violence compared even to other Arab countries in the region.

He explained that Israeli Arab society is neither a traditional, nor a modern one.

According to his data, violence among Jews decreased from 2005-2013 while violence in the Arab sector increased from 2006-2011.

In addition, 70% of attempted murders take place in the Arab sector.

Another key finding of his research was that 95% of the Arab population sees violence as the number one problem in their society.

Arabs view the border police and special forces with the most suspicion, though their view of the police in general improved.

More Arabs want a police station where they live, though most Arabs still do not want to work in the police themselves.

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