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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day before the Knesset was set to hold a special recess session to discuss the crime wave that has yielded 13 murders in a month - eight in the past two weeks - Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that violence in Israel had escalated to "a strategic threat."
Rivlin said that he would personally address the joint session of the Interior and Law committees scheduled for Wednesday, and promised that "I am going to say some very serious things."
"Can it be that people in Israel walk the streets knowing that they might not come home, simply because someone else wants to kill somebody else? Enough is enough regarding the wildness in Israeli society. It has become a strategic threat."
"You know that today in Israel you have to pay protection? It has become a mode, a way of life these days," he said.
Dissatisfied with public perceptions of declining personal security following Friday's fatal beating on north Tel Aviv's Tel Baruch Beach, MKs swung into action on Sunday, with both opposition and coalition lawmakers pushing to hold an emergency recess session to discuss the phenomenon.
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 would be closed, to allow support staff to enjoy the end of the summer vacation.
But after politicians and private citizens alike were shocked by the brutal murder of a father by a gang of youths on the Tel Aviv beachfront, legislators decided that they could not let the issue wait until the concentrated break ended in the first week of September.
On Sunday, Rivlin announced that he would convene an emergency Knesset Law Committee session to debate the murders after MK Yohanan Plessner (Kadima) called on Rivlin to convene the Interior Committee to hear Israel Police representatives explain how they plan to deal with the violence. Ultimately, the two committee meetings were merged.
"I hope to discuss the topic of the war against violence and criminality as a war on terror," said Law Committee Chairman David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu). "It must be viewed as such. When you cannot go out into the street without concern for your safety, when criminals leave courtrooms with light sentences, we need to change the way things work."
Rotem said he would work to see minimum sentencing requirements, and that he would tighten the criteria for plea bargains and for early releases on the basis of good behavior.
"I think that the three-strike system like in America is correct," he said. "If you get a chance once, [and] get a chance the second time, you should get a serious blow the third time."
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.
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