We need an iron fist and new intelligence capabilities - opinion

In the last ten years, during the term of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, crime in Arab society has grown and the phenomenon of illegal weapons has turned into a metastatic cancer.

 RESIDENTS FROM the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod protest outside the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem last year against the violence in their city and the lack of a sense of security. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
RESIDENTS FROM the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lod protest outside the National Police Headquarters in Jerusalem last year against the violence in their city and the lack of a sense of security.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In July 2003, IDF Corporal Oleg Shaichat was kidnapped and murdered. Three Arab Israelis from the Galilee town of Kfar Kanna were charged with the murder.

Oleg served in the IDF’s Northern Command and headed home on leave, catching a ride. When he failed to show up at home, security forces began searching for him. Days later, the horror of the incident became clear after the soldier’s body was found in northern Israel, near Beit Rimon Junction.

Three suspects from the Arab town of Kfar Kanna near Nazareth were arrested. They later confessed to the murder, reenacted it and were put on trial at the Nazareth District Court.

Months later in April 2004, a wave of violent incidents began targeting security vehicles traveling on a road not far from the site where Oleg’s body was found.

Rock-throwing and firebombing incidents occurred on an almost nightly basis, and the Israel Police’s Northern District, together with Border Police units, decided to place an ambush in the area to target the attackers.

 Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes on the holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on April 15, 2022.  (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90) Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards Israeli security forces during clashes on the holy month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City on April 15, 2022. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

One night, my beeper flashed with a message that carried news of a firefight at Beit Rimon Junction. At the time, I was a reporter and when I arrived at the scene I received an update saying that a cell member had been shot and killed by security forces and others injured.

I learned another interesting fact that night: Officers found Oleg’s firearm at the scene. This caused the case against the Kfar Kanna three to unravel.

It turned out that the three were innocent, and that a terror cell called the Galilee Liberators had carried out the kidnapping and murder of the soldier. The cell formed under the nose of the Shin Bet intelligence agency. Its mission was to harm Israeli security forces.

Then, as now, public denouncements of an intelligence failure flooded the media. The weakest link that led to this failure was the inability to gather intelligence among Arab Israelis.

The same Shin Bet that does such exemplary work in the territories and thwarts hundreds of plots hatched in the territories of the Palestinian Authority has a less developed intelligence network among Arab Israelis. Even in the age of cyber, there is no replacement for HUMINT (a category of intelligence derived from information collected and provided by human sources).

In the last ten years, during the term of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, crime in Arab society has grown and the phenomenon of illegal weapons has turned into a metastatic cancer.

Instead of strengthening the Israel Police and leading a clear policy of Shin Bet involvement, Netanyahu chose to shut his eyes and the problem exploded in Israel’s face in May 2021, during the conflict with Hamas, when waves of unrest and violence flooded Arab-Israeli towns. The same is true regarding neglect and lack of governance in the southern Negev.

In the past decade, more than 190 Israelis have been murdered in terror attacks. Tens of thousands of firearms are estimated by law enforcement to be illegally present in the Arab Israeli sector.

Israel must fight terrorism with an iron first, along with a similar battle against possession of illegal weapons, which should be classed as a security offense demanding Shin Bet intervention and the activation of its considerable intelligence capabilities. Those same capabilities that are activated in the areas of the Palestinian Authority together with the military and police need to be present here too, inside Israel.

The deadly terror attacks in Beersheba and Hadera were conducted by Arab Israelis, and these attacks serve as a stark reminder that the enormous quantities of weapons present in these areas are not only used by criminals, but also by terrorists.

This powder keg is already detonating. The policy for counteracting it must be clear.

At the same time, there are many Arab Israelis who seek to integrate into Israeli society and the country must not lose sight of that fact. Those moderates have to be strengthened, while the extremists must face a determined crackdown.

On the night of the March 27, terror was committed in Hadera by two Arab Israelis who swore allegiance to ISIS. Israel marked twenty years since the Park Hotel terror bombing in Netanya, when 30 people were murdered and 160 injured. It was the worst terror attack in Israel’s history.

Two decades later, two Border Police officers shot dead by terrorists in Hadera joined the list of victims, and since then, several more civilians have been killed.

In every generation, they rise up to destroy us, but a proper policy, the correct allocation of resources for boosting police and more severe punishments will lead to one more Israeli victory.

The writer is a publishing expert at The MirYam Institute. She is a former Knesset member on behalf of the Yisrael Beytenu party and served as the deputy head of the Kiryat Tivon Regional Council. She is a former journalist.