Mayors in danger

"No threats against any political figure should be downplayed and certainly not against Lankry, who is one of this country’s best mayors".

By
March 31, 2013 00:04
Acre mayor Shimon Lankry

Acre mayor Shimon Lankry 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Jewish Agency)

Had Shimon Lankry starred in the national political arena, the attempt on his life this month would have aroused incalculably more outrage. But he is only a mayor, and mayor of a troubled town – Acre, with its mixed Jewish and Arab population.

Hence, the fact that a masked man shot Lankry at point-blank range on his way home from the nearby Kafr Yasif was cataloged in the same cerebral file as threats against other mayors, investigations of municipal corruption and assorted reports of local authority malfeasance.

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But the attack should ring the loudest alarm bells. It was not a bolt from the blue. Lankry had been threatened, the police was informed but, unconscionably, nothing was done. Nobody can claim to have been unaware of the intimidation. The plain fact is that the constabulary just did not take it seriously, ascribing it all to some more superfluous municipal squawking.

The attitude was much the same as displayed toward the complaints of Hadera’s Mayor Haim Avitan, until a firebomb was thrown at his car last month.

Neither mayor was accorded adequate protection despite credible threats. It needs be stressed that mayors are not the only municipal officials harassed. Lower ranking executives are often in even greater risk.

Lankry’s narrow escape was not only his own good fortune but that of the police, which does not now have to explain away an actual assassination. But this case should be investigated as a homicide. The bullet that hit Lankry’s chest was meant to kill. The fact that it exited without damaging major organs or blood vessels is nothing short of a miracle and certainly not due to the shooter’s surgical precision.

No threats against any political figure should be downplayed and certainly not against Lankry, who is one of this country’s best mayors. Tiberias-born, this father of four resided comfortably in Kiryat Bialik but pulled up stakes more than a decade ago and moved his family to distressed Acre, out of idealistic motivation.

He had been its mayor since 2003 and had worked wonders. Lankry decided not to whine about his city so as not to ingrain the image of a basket case.

He opted to rely less on tightfisted central government handouts, and to boast of achievements rather than lament hardships.

He set up a reinforced local inspection corps, municipal labor exchanges to help combat unemployment, educational campuses, construction projects and tourism initiatives, including top-notch hotels. He established six residential neighborhoods in which apartments sell like hotcakes, despite Acre’s problem reputation. Crime is down, tax collection is up and the industrial zone is booming.

It stands to reason that in the course of reforming such a crime-ridden city, Lankry made enemies. That is not a rare phenomenon wherever determined mayors attempt extensive overhauls and thereby run afoul of forces with entrenched interests of their own.

But Acre also has its unique circumstances. Arsenals of firearms are hoarded in and around it, particularly in adjacent Arab villages. The police, leery of stirring up a hornets’ nest, prefer to ignore the dangers. Sporadically, hints of the mounting peril appear in the form of drive-by shootings that are all-too rampant in the Lower Galilee. In Acre’s city limits alone, it is conservatively estimated that, despite the reduction in underworld activity, there are around a hundred shooting incidents annually.

This is not dissimilar to the free-for-all in other “mixed cities” such as Lod. But the stockpiled arms should not just concern residents of outlying communities, far from the hearts and minds of the mainstream.

Acre saw stormy violence during the Arab riots of October 2000. On Yom Kippur 2008, it again experienced ethnic and communal violence. That makes stashes of assorted weaponry particularly disquieting.

Moreover, those afflictions, tolerated far from our major urban hubs, will in time trickle down to the largest and densest population centers. What happened in Acre might eventually be replicated in Tel Aviv-Jaffa or Jerusalem.Had Shimon Lankry starred in the national political arena, the attempt on his life this month would have aroused incalculably more outrage. But he is only a mayor, and mayor of a troubled town – Acre, with its mixed Jewish and Arab population.

Hence, the fact that a masked man shot Lankry at point-blank range on his way home from the nearby Kafr Yasif was cataloged in the same cerebral file as threats against other mayors, investigations of municipal corruption and assorted reports of local authority malfeasance.

But the attack should ring the loudest alarm bells. It was not a bolt from the blue. Lankry had been threatened, the police was informed but, unconscionably, nothing was done. Nobody can claim to have been unaware of the intimidation. The plain fact is that the constabulary just did not take it seriously, ascribing it all to some more superfluous municipal squawking.

The attitude was much the same as displayed toward the complaints of Hadera’s Mayor Haim Avitan, until a firebomb was thrown at his car last month.

Neither mayor was accorded adequate protection despite credible threats. It needs be stressed that mayors are not the only municipal officials harassed. Lower ranking executives are often in even greater risk.

Lankry’s narrow escape was not only his own good fortune but that of the police, which does not now have to explain away an actual assassination. But this case should be investigated as a homicide. The bullet that hit Lankry’s chest was meant to kill. The fact that it exited without damaging major organs or blood vessels is nothing short of a miracle and certainly not due to the shooter’s surgical precision.

No threats against any political figure should be downplayed and certainly not against Lankry, who is one of this country’s best mayors. Tiberias-born, this father of four resided comfortably in Kiryat Bialik but pulled up stakes more than a decade ago and moved his family to distressed Acre, out of idealistic motivation.

He had been its mayor since 2003 and had worked wonders. Lankry decided not to whine about his city so as not to ingrain the image of a basket case.

He opted to rely less on tightfisted central government handouts, and to boast of achievements rather than lament hardships.

He set up a reinforced local inspection corps, municipal labor exchanges to help combat unemployment, educational campuses, construction projects and tourism initiatives, including top-notch hotels. He established six residential neighborhoods in which apartments sell like hotcakes, despite Acre’s problem reputation. Crime is down, tax collection is up and the industrial zone is booming.

It stands to reason that in the course of reforming such a crime-ridden city, Lankry made enemies. That is not a rare phenomenon wherever determined mayors attempt extensive overhauls and thereby run afoul of forces with entrenched interests of their own.

But Acre also has its unique circumstances. Arsenals of firearms are hoarded in and around it, particularly in adjacent Arab villages. The police, leery of stirring up a hornets’ nest, prefer to ignore the dangers. Sporadically, hints of the mounting peril appear in the form of drive-by shootings that are all-too rampant in the Lower Galilee. In Acre’s city limits alone, it is conservatively estimated that, despite the reduction in underworld activity, there are around a hundred shooting incidents annually.

This is not dissimilar to the free-for-all in other “mixed cities” such as Lod. But the stockpiled arms should not just concern residents of outlying communities, far from the hearts and minds of the mainstream.

Acre saw stormy violence during the Arab riots of October 2000. On Yom Kippur 2008, it again experienced ethnic and communal violence. That makes stashes of assorted weaponry particularly disquieting.

Moreover, those afflictions, tolerated far from our major urban hubs, will in time trickle down to the largest and densest population centers. What happened in Acre might eventually be replicated in Tel Aviv-Jaffa or Jerusalem.


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