Arrest [illustrative] 370.
(photo credit: Nir Elias/Reuters)
On Saturday night, someone detonated a car bomb, rocking an Ashkelon
neighborhood and leaving in critical condition a man thought to be a member of
Shalom Domrani’s mobster organization. On October 24, also in Ashkelon, another
car was exploded killing Jackie Benita and blowing off Avi Biton’s two
Biton is known to be Domrani’s senior associate.
Dekel Tzafar and Sharon Farhi of Rosh Ha’ayin were killed in a car bombing at
the Yarkonim junction.
The two were connected to Eli Orkabi, a Petah
Tikva crime figure, who was killed a month before in a midday shooting
assassination near a Petah Tikva kindergarten.
Elan Fartush, a
42-year-old building contractor, was killed in the cross-fire.
Domrani and Orkabi killings might not be directly related, but they are part of
a larger mob war being waged not just in a shady underworld but on the streets
and public spaces of the Jewish State. This recent spate of mafiosa-style
murders has sparked fears that mobster violence is once again spiraling out of
control. The Knesset Interior and Environment Committee held a special meeting
last Wednesday to discuss the escalation of violence.
scrambling to improve their public image by making arrests. They met with crime
reporters in Jerusalem Tuesday to emphasize that they are taking this new wave
of violence seriously.
However, the question remains whether our law
enforcers have the ability to curtail, if not eliminate altogether, mobster
crime? The phenomenon of gangland shootings and explosions is not new. Some say
Israeli organized crime entered into a new, and more dangerous phase, five years
ago on November 17, 2008. That was the day a sophisticated remote-controlled
bomb ripped open the chassis of a rented white Volkswagon traveling on Namir
Boulevard in northern Tel Aviv, killing 53-year-old mob boss Ya’akov Alperon.
The blast also injured two bystanders, one of them a 13-year-old boy. We could
go back further to July 2004 when for the first time in Israel’s history a
judge, Adi Azar of the Tel Aviv District Court, was shot dead at point-blank
range outside his home in northern Tel Aviv by a gunman on a motorcycle. The
turning could also have been in July 2001, when American authorities seized over
700,000 Ecstasy tablets in a Manhattan apartment, leading eventually to the
arrest and conviction of Ze’ev Rosenstein.
Experts agree that the rise of
the Israeli brand of organized crime is the nearly inevitable result of Israel’s
burgeoning economy. One that is now experiencing the aftershocks of a rapid
process of privatization, monetary reform and the opening of the local market to
global forces. Like all sectors of Israel’s economy, organized crime, too, has
enjoyed a major boom. And with the increased level of revenues and potential for
riches, competition has become fiercer than ever as has the violence.
Israel more than in other places, the extent to which military-issued arms and
explosives are available to be stolen seems to make the police’s job even
And with Israel devoting so many resources to the fight against
terrorism, police can easily be overlooked and
Nevertheless, significant resources have been allocated to
fighting organized crime. In 2008, Lahav 433 – dubbed “the Israeli FBI” – was
created with five separate units: The Etgar Vehicle Theft Prevention Unit; the
National Serious International Crimes Unit, which cooperates with Interpol and
bilaterally with countries like Russia; the National Fraud Unit; the Economic
Crimes Unit; and the Police Gidonim unit, which does undercover
But even after mobster suspects are arrested and brought to
court, plea bargains are used to prosecute many cases out of desire to protect
informants, a principal source of evidence against underworld figures. The need
to protect witnesses is particularly urgent in Israel, a tiny
But use of plea bargains inevitably results in lighter
sentencing, which hurts deterrence.
Considering Israel’s objective
limitations and unique challengers, it is difficult to imagine organized crime
disappearing any time soon. The best to be hoped for is more stringent
enforcement that will curtail the phenomenon and make our streets a little