The murders of two local political figures on Monday and Tuesday are indications that Israel no longer has control over many of its Arab communities. This is no longer a government failing to grasp a problem, it is a fundamental issue of governance and sovereignty.
With the barrages of bullets that took the lives of Abu Snan local council political candidate Ghazi Saab on Tuesday and Tira municipality director-general Abed Al-Rahman Kashu on Monday, the government was also riddled with holes.
While across the rest of the country Israel is a thriving democracy with economic and military power, in these gaps – the Arab communities – Israel has become a failed state.
A failed state, from a law enforcement standpoint, is a territory in which the government may claim sovereignty, but has lost the monopoly on violence and the ability to enforce the rule of law and govern its population effectively.
The monopoly on violence means that the state is the sole authority on the legitimate use of force. This force is used by the state as an objective arbiter, a last resort to enforce law and order. If everyone is able to use force to enforce their interests, the result is anarchy.
Anarchy is evident in the Arab communities, as the use of force has become cheap and accessible to all. Illegal weapons, many stolen from the IDF or police, have proliferated across these communities, available for purchase without any government oversight. Violence is widespread as a mechanism of conflict resolution.
Arab citizens prefer organizations over government for help
Experts like Dr. Muhammed Khalaily told The Jerusalem Post in June that local residents seek criminal organizations, not the government, as arbiters in domestic disputes. Gangs kill members of opposing gangs with reckless flouting of supposed Israeli law. The lack of control over the use of violence is evident by the surge in death in the Arab sector this year. Over 150 people have been killed in the last eight months, 46 more deaths than the entirety of 2022.
The Israeli Police constantly report arrests, but the murders continue, showing the police has lost deterrence. By June, with 102 murders, there had only been 32 arrests and 12 indictments. The rule of law barely reaches into the extraterritorial regions, which are populated by alternative authorities.
The gangs not only openly kill officials of the state, they also control their own. This was made clear at the beginning of August when a Rameh local council head was arrested along with his son for involvement with a crime family. They were engaging in protection racketing – a scourge on its own that has led politicians to pass new anti-racketeering laws in recent months. The poster boy of these efforts has been Rami Ismail, who was arrested at the beginning of the month for extorting a hospital construction foreman, but the incidents continue to pile up.
These protection fees are in effect taxes. As National Unity head Benny Gantz noted on Wednesday, these gangs were stealing taxes to fund thefts, murder, and agricultural crime. According to Khalaily, gangs have established a separate economic system, financing building and providing loans instead of banks.
There is no doubt the tragedy afflicting the Arab community is first and foremost a crime against them by these criminal gangs, but the loss of control is also a challenge to the Zionist enterprise that sought to create a functional Jewish and democratic state in the Levant.
If Israel wishes to claim control over these voids of statehood across the country, the government must do more than offer words of consolation and political claims to territory. Israel must restore its sovereignty and fill in the holes of its governance.