(photo credit: AP)
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch delivered two bombshells from the Knesset podium Wednesday during a special plenum session to discuss the summer's wave of violent crime - opposing a plan for local police forces and saying that he planned to enlist haredi national service volunteers in the Israel Police.
"We are acting to enlist Beduin, Druse and anybody who can assist the country in the police. We are also entering the haredi community," he revealed. "There, we will go in the direction of national service, and there are currently advanced contacts under way so that national service will be done with the Israel Police."
But Aharonovitch's revelation did not exempt him from stinging criticism from haredi MKs regarding police management of the recent haredi protests in Jerusalem.
"We oppose violent protests," said MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ). "But you are not another police officer in the ranks, you are the public security minister, that is what you were elected to do.
"Tell me, how many times did you conduct dialogue with representatives of the haredi public? I blame you for what happened."
Gafni said that he had repeatedly requested to meet with Aharonovitch, but that the minister had not responded.
Minutes after Aharonovitch left the podium, MK Aryeh Bibi (Kadima), a former police commander, was seen mediating between Aharonovitch and Gafni in the back of the plenum hall. The two are now scheduled to hold a formal meeting early Thursday morning.
But the announcement about enlisting haredi youth was not the only headline-grabbing statement made by the outspoken Israel Beiteinu minister.
"A municipal police force will not exist. As the appointed minister, I will not allow this to happen," Aharonovitch announced.
In this he was contradicting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who earlier this week cited municipal police forces as part of his five-point program to combat violence.
But Aharonovitch reiterated his view that local policing would take place within the existing police infrastructure, without forming independent bodies.
"Municipal police will not be established and will not exist within the Israel Police," he said.