This week, as observers and authorities spoke of the possibility of violent
disturbances following the expected United Nations recognition of a Palestinian
state, police commissioner Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino sent a peaceful message
promoting non-violence to all those who plan to hold
Addressing Israeli Arabs and Palestinians under his
jurisdiction, Danino said, “I will order police to act with the demonstrators in
the same way they acted with housing protesters – with patience and sensitivity,
while encouraging dialogue to prevent deterioration.”
At the same time,
he stressed, “any violation of the law or public order, or any sign of violence,
will be dealt with by us immediately and without compromise.”
becoming commissioner, Danino was head of the southern police district, where he
had spearheaded offers of dialogue and police cooperation with the Arab
community in exchange for orderly conduct.
Danino’s message this week is
based on the same formula that he used to help maintain close relations between
the police’s southern district and the 200,000- strong Beduin community who live
in the South, and which succeeded in preventing mass rioting even during times
of heightened tensions between the Beduin and the state.
It is therefore
worth examining how the southern police district builds and nourishes its
relationship with Beduin Israelis.
In mid-August, the current southern
police district head, Cmdr. Yossi Prienti, invited dozens of Beduin leaders for
an evening meal to break the Ramadan fast at police headquarters in
The invitation was accepted by a large number of attendees,
including Beduin heads of regional councils, sheikhs and other
A central figure in the event was the southern district’s Arab
affairs adviser, Ch.-Supt. Shalom Ben Salomon, a fluent Arabic speaker, who has
been instrumental in forging the unique relationship between police and the
“Every police district has an Arab Affairs
The position was created by a police commissioner in 1994,” Ben
Salomon told The Jerusalem Post this week. “It’s a very challenging and
interesting role. There is always something new. That’s why I’ve been here for
ten years. The more connections you make, the closer the cooperation becomes.
With time, one learns to build better and better bridges.”
“In many ways,
I am a two-way communication channel. I’m the southern district chief’s guy
inside the Beduin community and I pass messages from him to them. I also pass
messages from the Beduin leadership to the police and to other state
authorities, acting as a pipeline that connects the Beduin leadership to the
state,” Ben-Salomon added. “This allows us to straighten out many issues.”
Ben-Salomon maintains daily contact with official Beduin leaders, from members
of Knesset to regional council heads, as well as unofficial yet nonetheless
influential leaders, including heads of tribes, sheikhs, and even
representatives of the Islamic Movement’s southern branch.
every day, during good and bad times,” Ben-Salomon said.
dialogue prevents conflicts and solves problems. All of these communications
build up over the years and have a positive influence,” he continued. “There’s
no doubt that my connection to them, as well as the connection maintained by my counterpart in the Negev sub-district, contributes significantly to the area.
I am available to them 24 hours a day. There’s no such thing as not taking
calls,” Ben-Salomon said.
“Most of the demonstrations [held by the
Beduin] are legitimate and are held after official requests are
We permit these legal demonstrations and guard them,” he
Every two to three months, the southern district holds a large
meeting with Beduin leaders as part of a special forum, in which problems are
openly raised and solutions offered.
Police have even become accustomed
to employing traditional Beduin mediation channels – a founding stone of Beduin
conflict resolution – to help solve clashes between tribes and clans. This is
aimed at preventing a dispute between tribes and clans from turning a long and
“Since we are accepted in the community, sheikhs and
notables turn to us to help solve conflicts,” Ben- Salomon said. He stressed,
however, that the mediation talks were not a substitute for the arrest of anyone
who was suspected of violence. “The message we send is that when we arrest
criminals, we are serving the majority of the Beduin community,” he said. “It’s
very important to stress the clear line between helping to solve problems and
arresting suspected criminals. If Beduin individuals become involved in a
conflict, they can involve entire tribes. Hence, we aim for quick
One of the most sensitive issues involving the Beduin
community revolves around the demolition of illegally built homes. Here too, Ben-Salomon said police can act as a bridge to minimize the risks of
“We try to soften the difficult blow of demolitions for
them. We try to give them the full range of legal options. We get them as much
information as possible and make sure they get to court.
If there are
humanitarian issues we can assist with, we go to the district chief to seek
approval for that,” he said.
In the coming months, the southern police
district plans to significantly increase its presence inside Beduin towns and
“We’re going to double the [staff of the] Ayarot police station
and create 108 positions there. That’s a dramatic increase. The same number of
positions will be set up in the Rahat and Revivim stations. This increases our
ability to serve the Beduin community,” Ben-Salomon said.