Netanyahu reiterates need for across-the-board law enforcement in Arab communities

PM rejects criticism that he singled out minority.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the site of the shooting on Dizengoff, January 2. 2016. (photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the site of the shooting on Dizengoff, January 2. 2016.
(photo credit: HAIM ZACH/GPO)
Following Friday’s Tel Aviv terrorist attack allegedly carried out by Israeli Nashat Milhem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting calling for greater law enforcement in the Arab sector and brushing off opposition criticism that he incited against Arab citizens.
“When we formed the government I asked [Public Security Minister Gilad] Erdan and the police commissioner to make a major effort to change something that has prevailed in the country for almost 70 years: the lack of law enforcement in the Arab sector,” he said. “The citizens themselves are suffering there; they are suffering from increasing crime, and all citizens of Israel are suffering from the incitement and the violence, which is both criminal and nationalistic, that harms all citizens of Israel.”
Netanyahu said that there will be stepped-up enforcement of the law in the Arab sector in all areas, including building laws, regulations against noise coming from mosques, and incitement coming from mosques, social media and the educational system.
He also said there is a need to confiscate large quantities of illegal arms in Arab communities.
These steps have already started and “will be carried out in the coming days and gather momentum, because we will make a very great effort so that the State of Israel will be a unified nation of law. This is the right thing,” the prime minister said.
These comments echoed others Netanyahu made on Saturday night when he visited the site of the previous day’s attack in Tel Aviv, comments for which he came under sharp criticism for allegedly singling out the Arab minority, and calling into question their loyalty.
In those comments, Netanyahu said: “Israel will enforce the law and its sovereignty in all parts of the country – in the Galilee, the Negev and the Triangle [area east of Kfar Saba], everywhere. We will build new police stations, recruit more police and go into all communities and demand from all of them loyalty to the laws of the state. One cannot say, ‘I am an Israeli in rights and a Palestinian in obligations.’ Whoever wants to be Israeli should be an Israeli all the way, both in rights and in obligations, and the first and highest obligation is to obey the laws of the state.”
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that he was not be moved by criticism of his comments, since law enforcement is one of the keys to democracy. Israel was neither limiting nor focusing law enforcement on one sector, he said, pointing to the indictments handed down that morning against suspects in the Duma murders.
“We are against murder of any kind,” he said. “We are against violence of any kind. We are against violations of the law wherever they occur. We are a state of law and we will enforce the law throughout the State of Israel and vis-à-vis all citizens of Israel.”
Construction Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu) told reporters before the meeting that there must be no compromises in the war against terrorism, and the terrorist who carried out Friday’s attack needed to be apprehended and brought to trial, as well as those who backed him.
With that, Galant stressed, “Israeli Arabs are not enemies, they are citizens of the country, and the government last week did the right thing in adopting the [five-year, NIS 15 billion] assistance plan for Israeli Arabs.”
Science, Technology and Space Minister Ophir Akunis (Likud) said the attack proved again that there was no difference for terrorists between settlements beyond the Green Line and cities and towns within the pre-1967 lines.
Akunis said that phenomenon of extremism in the Arab sector has been known for years. “Those who want to live in peace with us, we will respect, and those who don’t, like that blood thirsty terrorist [Milhem] – and the condemnation of his father did not impress me – we need to fight them will all our strength and step up the enforcement of the law.”
Reminded that Milhem’s father reported his son to the police, Akunis replied, “He came from somewhere, the desire to kill Jews came from somewhere. So with all due respect to the condemnation, the phenomenon is very wide and deep, and it needs to be dealt with at its root among the extremists among the Israeli Arabs.”
Following the cabinet meeting, MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) accused Netanyahu of making racist comments, saying he “aims to turn the conversation away from the crimes of the occupation and hate crimes, and create a hostile and alienating environment toward an entire religious group.”
According to Touma-Sliman, “the government has always tried to ignore Arab villages and towns and provide opportunities for crime, weapons and poverty to spread in them; understand that today the fire does not know the difference between Jews and Arabs.
“Law enforcement means treating us as citizens with equal rights and not like criminals and inciting against us,” she added. “Netanyahu should start acting like a prime minister and not an oppressive military commander.”
MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) called the Tel Aviv attack “shocking and worthy of condemnation by every human being,” and said he is proud of Israeli Arabs and their leadership for coming out clearly against the shooting.
In a reference to Netanyahu’s call for all Arab MKs to condemn the attack, Frej added: “We didn’t hear stuttering, certainly not justifications.
We saw an entire society that was shocked.
“Today, we all have the responsibility to fight for our joint future, to look for what unites us and fight those, Arab and Jewish, who ask to sow fear, violence and hatred,” Frej said.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union) wrote on Twitter that Netanyahu “Rushed to a pointless photo- op at the site of a painful, bleeding terrorist attack, set up a strange podium and incited horribly against all Israeli-Arab citizens... I have a problem with orchestrated incitement using the blood [of the victims of the attack] to cover up failure.”
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai (Labor) said Netanyahu “is looking for others to blame in this situation.”
“I felt that he is a person who has no answers, and instead of addressing the nation and telling them that, he lashes out at a different population,” Huldai told Army Radio.
In the Likud, MK Oren Hazan tweeted what appeared to be a criticism of the prime minister: “There is a thick and clear line separating the million-and-a-half faithful Israeli Arabs from the terrorist minority, against whom we must act without mercy. We must not turn a million citizens into enemies.”
Also on Sunday, Knesset Interior Affairs Committee chairman David Amsalem (Likud) announced that he would urgently call a meeting about illegal weapons.
“In the Arab population alone there are thousands of illegal weapons, many of which were stolen from the IDF,” Amsalem said.
“They are used every day and illegally to harm citizens of the state in criminal and nationalist acts.”
Amsalem accused the police of being afraid to enforce the law in Arab areas, partly because of the abundant weaponry and partly because the force is understaffed, and called for new police stations to be opened in every town to enforce the law.
Rosie Perper contributed to this report.