The police’s current efforts to stop crime are not enough - editorial

Crime in the Arab sector is one of the worst problems that Israelis currently face, and the longer it takes the state to deal with it, the bigger this problem grows.

Israeli Border Police forces are seen confronting Palestinian men in Jerusalem's Old City on April 17, 2022 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli Border Police forces are seen confronting Palestinian men in Jerusalem's Old City on April 17, 2022
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Amid the distressing reports of unrest over the weekend surrounding prayers at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, some good news emerged on Friday.

Sixteen people suspected of gun violence were arrested in a police raid at compounds in the northern town of Daburiya, as part of the inter-ministerial operation to fight crime in the Arab sector.

This comes as yet another step in a police campaign called “Safe Track” that began last October.

So far, the police reported that it seized some 500 weapons since the beginning of the year in the northern region alone. These included 100 rifles, 177 pistols, 186 hand grenades, 22 explosives, and 13 C-4 demolition blocks.

Moreover, according to data released on April 14, operations have been conducted against 585 crime figures since the campaign began, approximately 80% of the total number of suspects that the police has identified.

Chief of Police Kobi Shabtai and Head of Jerusalem police district Doron Turgeman seen at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, April 18, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)Chief of Police Kobi Shabtai and Head of Jerusalem police district Doron Turgeman seen at the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest prayer site, in Jerusalem's Old City, during the Jewish holiday of Passover, April 18, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

At least 417 were arrested, of whom 288 have been charged, while 196 will remain in custody until the end of legal proceedings, effectively taking them off the streets, the police said in a statement.

Cmdr. Dror Asraf, head of the Israel Police Special Operations Department, said this is a sign that “the Arab-Israeli population is responding positively to the police’s efforts and is cooperating impressively.”

This is important and praiseworthy progress.

Crime in the Arab sector is one of the worst problems that Israelis currently face, and the longer it takes the state to deal with it, the bigger this problem grows.

But even with all that is being done, it is not enough.

We still hear reports – on a weekly basis – of Arabs being murdered by criminals on the streets.

The last victim was killed on Saturday. His name was Mohammad Dib, 40, and he was shot in his hometown of Jaffa.

So far, 23 Arab-Israelis have been murdered in crime-related incidents since the beginning of 2022, according to an Abraham Initiative report. Sixteen of them were killed in shootings.

It is estimated that there are some 300,000 illegal and lethal weapons in the Arab sector, among them guns, rifles and grenades and fears that these weapons could also be turned against Jews is no longer just speculation – the ISIS-affiliated terrorists in the Hadera attack earlier this month were Arab-Israelis from Umm el-Fahm.

Despite the best efforts of the police, a wide-scale operation like “Safe Track” can’t be the only means the state implements against crime in the Arab sector.

It needs two main elements – deterrence and creating opportunities. When they are applied, young men and women will know that they have something to lose if they join the arms bearers.

Besides launching police campaigns and sending officers into Arab villages, the government must make sure that these villages are treated the same as Jewish cities and towns.

This includes proper infrastructure, decent education funding and public housing projects. As of now, most Arab towns and villages lack much of that.

The state should also create employment opportunities for young Arabs. While among some, the trend of being assimilated into Israeli society is growing, many young Arabs are left behind without a job or education, and they tend to end up with organized crime groups.

On top of that, there is the responsibility of Arab representatives in the Knesset. Usually, they are slammed for focusing only on the Palestinian issue and less on the social matters of their own constituency.

While that is mostly wrong, they did fail to  solve the crime problem; we almost never hear Arab politicians calling on Arab-Israelis to lay down their weapons and return to the straight and narrow.

Recent moves by Arab politicians are pushing away this goal even further.

Ra’am’s decision to “freeze” its membership in the coalition and Ayman Odeh’s call on Arabs who serve in the police and the army to “throw their weapons at the faces” of the Jewish majority is bad leadership and ignores the huge problem facing their constituents.

It is time for all the elements involved in this crisis – including the Arab leadership in local municipalities – to make it a priority to end the scourge of crime and murder.