As much criticism as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking for appointing MK Itamar Ben-Gvir as national security minister, the prime minister cannot afford to fire Ben-Gvir, since this would likely lead to the latter's six Knesset seats leaving the coalition. This would bring the coalition down to 58 seats and likely topple the government.
Army Radio's Shachar Glick quoted a source "close to Netanyahu" last week as saying that the Likud had mapped out potential Otzma Yehudit defectors in case Ben-Gvir is fired. The first name is Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen, whose relations with Ben-Gvir have soured. The second name could be MK Limor Son-Harmelech, who, according to Glick, was loyal to Ben-Gvir, but could defect if the government's survival was on the line.
Still, this would only give the coalition 60 seats, and even one more defector would lead to a narrow, unstable 61-MK majority.
The staggering number of homicides in the Arab sector is due in large part to an ongoing gang war between two groups in the North – the Bakri organization and the Hariri organization. Last week's murder of five in Yafia was indicative of how this war has gotten completely out of hand. An explosion in Ramat Gan over the weekend also gave a precursor to what could happen if the issue is left untreated – a return to the early 2000s, when warring between the Abergil and Alperon crime organizations, as well as with arch-criminal Ze'ev Rubinstein, led to car bombs in the heart of Tel Aviv.
Organized crime seeped into the Arab sector when the Jewish-Israeli gangs were brought down following the 2015 arrest of 45 criminals, known as "Case 512". The police branch that ran the Case 512 investigation was Lahav 433 which was founded by current Yesh Atid MK and former deputy internal security minister, Yoav Segalovitz.
In the Lapid-Bennett government, Segalovitz was put in charge of fighting organized crime in the Arab sector and succeeded in bringing down the rate of homicides in that sector for the first time in years. He did so by launching an operation called "Safe Track", which brought together all branches of law enforcement and relevant government agencies for coordinated moves on all fronts.
Segalovitz argued on N12's "Meet the Press" on Saturday that the current government had not continued the operation and that all of the plans were laid out and available – and all Ben-Gvir needed to do was implement them.
Segalovitz, as the founder of Lahav 433, was an appropriate choice to lead Safe Track. This cannot be said about Ben-Gvir, who, even without considering his far-right views, has little experience in management or law enforcement. Nearly half a year into this government's existence, Ben-Gvir has yet to name someone else to serve as a deputy who could be better equipped to take over on this issue, and it is unclear if he will do so.
Netanyahu must seriously address the issue of organized crime. This was one of the central themes in his election campaign, and he cannot afford to be perceived as someone who is weak on crime. But if he cannot replace Ben-Gvir nor force the national security minister to appoint a deputy, what are his options?
What are Netanyahu's options for fighting crime?
The answer, for the time being, seems to be bringing on the Shin Bet.
This has two advantages. First, it enables the prime minister to bring in an agency he believes is capable of getting the job done, while also enabling Ben-Gvir to stay on and oversee the Shin Bet's activities on the matter.
Second, it has the added benefit of serving as proof that the Attorney-General's Office has too much power and acts against the safety and wellbeing of Israeli citizens – as the A-G's office opposes the Shin Bet's involvement. This plays into the government's attempts to weaken the power of the A-G and other ministries' legal advisors as part of its judicial reform.
This is the "easy" solution – and while it could benefit Netanyahu politically, and help Israel's Arab population, it is problematic.
The Shin Bet is an agency that, by law, is supposed to fight external enemies, not Israeli citizens. Bringing in the Shin Bet could potentially blur the line between Palestinian terrorism in the West Bank and organized crime within Israel. It could also lead to an undefined period of violation of privacy for Israeli Arabs.
Having said that, the Arab community in Israel is begging for the Shin Bet to enter the fray – anything so that the violence decreases. The Shin Bet could contribute greatly to the effort to curb organized crime, and if it is given clear boundaries within which to operate, the upside could outweigh the danger of involving it in civil matters.
The much harder, yet healthier solution would be to continue Safe Track and continue beefing up the body that is responsible for fighting crime – the Israel Police, while only using the Shin Bet on issues that toe the line between terror and crime.