Netanyahu: Crime is terrorizing nation’s Arabs

Netanyahu says greater work must be done to integrate Israeli Arabs into economy and workforce.

cops 521 (photo credit: REUTERS)
cops 521
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The level of crime in the Arab sector has created an intolerable reality for these Israeli citizens, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday.
“The [Arab] sector is living in an unbearable situation of crime, murder and robbery,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister’s comments came during a special Knesset committee meeting held to discuss violence in the Arab community.
He called for a two-pronged approach to “free the Arab public from the terror of crime,” saying that more must be made to integrate Israeli Arabs into the economy and the workforce, and that law enforcement efforts must be stepped up in their communities.
“Over 40 percent of the sector says they are worried that someone will harm them in their village or town; that’s almost every other person,” the prime minister continued. “This is the Wild West, the Wild East, the Wild North, Wild South. We must take action.”
Netanyahu spoke of years past when Israeli organized crime was in its heyday, before the police dramatically changing the equation for the better. That same success can be achieved in fighting crime in the Arab sector, he said.
At one point during the meeting, Siham Agbariya from Umm el-Fahm broke into tears describing the heartbreak and terror she feels following the murder of her husband and two of her children four months ago.
“My children are afraid, they saw what happened to their father and their brothers that same night they were with me. I’m only asking one thing from you,” she said in Hebrew, before breaking down and saying in Arabic, “We never had any enemies, I never locked my door and I felt safe until this happened. Now neither I nor my children feel safe. I am asking the police to find the killers. As long as they are free I have no safety.”
Netanyahu said Agbaria’s words tore his heart. When he left the committee room, he stopped to comfort her.
Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said at the meeting that tackling the disproportionate level of violence in the Arab sector is a national priority. He also said that because not all crimes are reported, the statistics are deceptive. “Regarding the data – double the reported number,” he said “In the data we have, there are 141 incidents of murder in total, and 62 of them are from the Arab sector. We know about many unreported cases,” Aharonovitch said.
“Defeating and controlling the violence in the Arab sector is something I have set as a goal,” the minister continued. “When I say thousands of weapons are caught, it shows the huge number of weapons out there.”
In recent years, Aharonovitch has repeatedly made such calls for greater law enforcement in Arab communities. According to figures released by his ministry last month, while Arabs make up around 20% of the population, they are the suspects in 67% of homicides, 70% of attempted homicides and 52% of arsons. They are also the victims of the overwhelming majority of homicides committed in the country.
In January, Aharonovitch launched three new police units to back up stations in Arab areas – a unit for the Ayarot station patrolling Beduin areas of the Negev, a unit to supplement officers in Tira and Taiba in the Sharon region, and a third to help officers in the Nazareth area. Each unit has 110 officers.
Police plan to set up a further five units of 60 officers each in other Arab areas, including in the Wadi Ara region and in Shfaram.
Also during Monday’s Knesset meeting, Israel Police Insp.-Gen. Yochanan Danino said that police will no longer use the phrase “honor killings” to refer to murders carried out by spouses or relatives of Arab women, instead referring to them as “murders within the family.”
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.