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(photo credit: Ori Porat [file])
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu came out forcefully on Sunday in favor of harsher sanctions as a way to stem the wave of violent crime that has dominated the headlines in recent weeks.
"We need to shake the tree," Netanyahu told cabinet ministers who were briefed on the crime situation by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen.
"I place a lot of importance on making punishment more severe," said the prime minister. "For a long time I have thought that the punishment for violent crimes in Israel is not strong enough, and there is not enough deterrence," he said. He said he asked Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman to prepare legislation to stiffen the sanctions for violent offenses.
The prime minister stressed that a key point in increasing people's sense of security was the formation of municipal police forces, and said that he would continue to push the issue.
Aharonovitch characterized violent crime as "terrorism" against Israeli society. He said there was a need to give the police a significantly larger budget, as well as for legislation to restrict the sale and use of alcohol.
Cohen, however, tried to put the recent crime wave in perspective, saying that Israel was not a violent society, although there was violence in Israel.
He pointed out that as opposed to the public perception, there has actually been a decline in the number of murders from 2006, with 92 murders that year during the current corresponding period, 79 the following year, 73 in 2008, and 72 so far this year.
He said in Israel there were 1.75 murders for every 100,000 people, as opposed to 18 per 100,000 in Russia, and nine per 100,000 in the US.