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(photo credit: AP)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu unveiled a five-point plan for tackling violence on the nation's streets, in a telephone interview that was jointly broadcast by Army Radio and Israel Radio on Sunday.
The radio stations held a day of interviews with decision-makers on solutions for combating violence.
"I think this is an intolerable situation," Netanyahu said during the interview.
Referring to this month's wave of high-profile murders, the prime minister
described violence "as a form of internal terrorism."
Advocating a policy of zero-tolerance, he proposed "making punishments more severe."
"Our judicial system is good, maybe the best in the world. But there is room for harsher punishments. We will submit new legislation during the upcoming Knesset winter session so that criminals and thugs pay for their crimes, and they are removed from society."
Netanyahu called for longer prison terms. "I don't think we should have a revolving door for criminals," he said.
The second pillar of Netanyahu's action plan involves the creation of municipal police forces, to increase the number of officers on the streets.
"Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen dispatched 10 Border Police companies to city centers following recent incidents, but we need a permanent arrangement," the prime minister said.
He added that a meeting would be held on Monday with Aharonovitch and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to plan the widely expected creation of city police departments.
While the finance minister has called for municipal police forces to be subordinate to mayors and local authority chairmen, Aharonovitch has said they should remain under the command of the Israel Police due to fears of corruption among the local political leaders.
When asked how he intended to pay for the proposed reform, Netanyahu said, "There is the possibility of adding to the budget and using current resources better. I intend to get officers out into the field... There is no government ministry or branch that cannot improve its use of resources."
The third plan of the prime minister entails the creation of an educational program aimed at "improving discipline and decreasing violence in schools."
In his fourth point, Netanyahu said alcohol sales would be limited after 9 p.m., and kiosks and gas stations would be prohibited from selling alcohol altogether.
He has yet to decide whether all members of the public will be prohibited from buying alcohol at night or whether the restrictions will only target young people.
"ID will have to be presented when purchasing alcohol. We will decrease the legally allowed blood-alcohol level for drivers," the prime minister said.
"Alcohol is a national plague. In terms of alcohol and violence levels, we are low compared to the West, but we're rising... Alcohol is a major factor in causing violence," he said.
Netanyahu's fifth proposal involves the City Without Violence program, based on a partnership of government, local authorities, police and social services to work in concert to tackle violence.
The prime minister said he would expand the number of cities taking part in the program from 12 "to over 50," adding that the program has already "decreased incidents of violence and murders. We plan to set up municipal control rooms that will monitor events 24 hours a day."
Asked whether flooding city centers with TV cameras would constitute an invasion of privacy, Netanyahu cited the UK, "the mother of democracies," as an example of the success of increased video surveillance.
Earlier on Sunday, police chief Cohen addressed the ongoing haredi riots in the capital this summer, protesting against the operation of a parking lot on Shabbat.
"It's their right to protest, but we will not be silent over the spitting on police officers and shouts of 'Nazis,'" Cohen told Army Radio and Israel Radio. "We think Jerusalem should safeguard its unique character, but we are only the enforcers of the law."
Cohen said he was concerned by the recent crime wave. Responding to calls to create municipal police forces under the command of mayors, he said, "We are the local and urban solution. The police must be given full backing, so that public trust in us is complete."
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman said he was considering the cancellation of a law that allows prison sentences to be reduced by a third.
State Attorney Moshe Lador proposed minimum sentences for violent crimes. He also called for a national re-prioritization that would put dealing with violence at the top of the agenda.
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