(photo credit: Channel 10)
Amid public perceptions of declining personal security following the weekend's fatal beating on Tel Baruch Beach, MKs swung into action Sunday, with both opposition and coalition members pushing to hold an emergency recess session to discuss the phenomenon later this week.
This week was meant to be the first of two weeks of a "concentrated break" during which - for the first time ever - the Knesset building itself was closed down to allow even support staff to enjoy the last weeks of the summer vacation with their families.
But after the past weekend's headlines shocked politicians and private citizens alike with the brutal murder of a middle-aged man by a gang of youths on the Tel Aviv beach, MKs decided that they could not let the recent summer crime wave - which included eight murders in the past two weeks - wait until the concentrated break ended in the first week of September.
MK Nahman Shai (Kadima) called on Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin to convene an emergency plenum session to debate the murders, and MK Yohanan Plessner (Kadima) called on Rivlin to convene the Interior Committee to hear from police representatives how they planned on dealing with violence and what steps could be taken to solve the problem.
"The solution is not putting a police officer on every corner, but initiating a joint process of the legislature and the police to increase punishments, restore deterrent power and increase personal security," said Plessner Sunday.
Kadima's Knesset faction also submitted a petition Sunday with the signatures of 25 MKs, calling for a special plenum session under the title "The Increase of Crime and the Harm to the Private Security of the Nation's Citizens."
Rivlin initially decided to hold a special meeting of the Interior Committee - which is tasked with oversight of the Public Security Ministry - on Wednesday. Law Committee chairman David Rotem decided that his committee, too, should join the discussion, and the final decision was to hold a special hearing of a joint session of both committees, to be televised live on Wednesday morning.
"I intend to utilize all of the means available to me to aid the legal system and the Israel Police in reining in the increasing violence throughout the country," said Rotem.
In addition to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen, Rivlin asked Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to attend the committee. The inclusion of Steinitz reflected the direction of criticism, which in the day after the murder focused on police preparedness and the lack of manpower stemming from low salaries.
Aharonovitch told Israel Radio Sunday that his new plan would increase the number of police on the streets, but stressed that "we cannot put a cop on every corner."
He blamed the violence on neglect by previous governments and said that he would work to increase the "dismal" police wages.
Police have been attempting to fill an extra 1,000 positions allotted as part of a plan initiated by former public security minister Avi Dichter last year, but have not succeeded in recruiting enough people. Within the police, many have blamed the low salaries offered to incoming police officers, which begin only some NIS 1,000 above minimum wage.