The government is not doing enough to end violence in Arab sector

The death toll of Arab victims of violence is sharply rising, and a solution to this deadly phenomenon seems out of reach.

An empty Knesset Plenum  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An empty Knesset Plenum
The government announced last week that it would continue supporting a program that will have a tremendous effect on Arab society in Israel: the 922 plan.
According to the plan – which was meant to end in December and has now been extended for another year – the state will invest some NIS 4.7 billion in the Arab sector and develop new infrastructure, including roads, public transportation and industrial areas, as well as increase the education budget for the sector.
This bears great significance for Arab-Israelis, a sector that lived under military rule for the first 18 years of the state’s existence and is still fighting to close gaps between it and the general public.
Multiple times, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has taken pride in the fact that he is leading a government that invests in the Arab sector.
“I am the prime minister who invested the most in the Arab society,” he said in election rallies last year.
And this time he might be right. The 922 plan is a program with great potential. The proof is that even Netanyahu’s fiercest rivals commended the extension of it.
“Removing the obstacles from budgets is a crucial step toward minimizing the gaps that harm the Arab society,” Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh said.
MK Ahmad Tibi, who is well remembered for Netanyahu’s campaign slogan “It’s [either] Bibi or Tibi,” also expressed his satisfaction with the extension.
While the plan is moving ahead, there are still problems. The death toll of Arab victims of violence is sharply rising, and a solution to this deadly phenomenon seems out of reach.
According to the Abraham Initiatives organization, 75 Arab-Israelis were killed in violent incidents since the beginning of 2020. The last four victims were murdered in less than 48 hours last week.
This deadly problem seems to be getting worse as time goes by. However, it seems that neither the police nor the government is taking the necessary steps to stop the violence in the Arab sector.
Apparently, however, there is a solution. In November 2019, the government announced that the prime minister had ordered the formation of a special team of ministerial directors-general who will work together to come up with an effective plan to combat this phenomenon.
In March 2020, a press release claimed, “The State of Israel is now seeing a new reality of violence and crime in the Arab-Israeli sector. This reality is unacceptable in its volume and magnitude, and it affects the chances of the Arab citizens from being properly integrated into society, the ability of local authorities to provide basic services, and the ability of the entire Arab society to live a normal life.”
Yet, after publishing these powerful and rightful words, no actual steps were taken. The plan to fight violence in the Arab sector, which was put in place by the directors-general, was never formally approved and hence was never carried out.
This has a tremendous effect also on the 922 plan.
As the Abraham Initiatives said in a press release, “Inequality and violence are complementary issues: without addressing violence, economic gaps will not close, and without closing economic gaps, it will be impossible to eradicate violence.”
Another concern is that an influx of money without proper oversight will end up in the wrong hands.
According to some estimates, there are more than 300,000 illegal weapons in the Arab sector. Many of them are meant to protect people from the black market, which thrived due to structural flaws in the government’s management of crime in the sector.
Solving the financial part without fighting violence means almost nothing.
It is not only a matter of social equality but also of basic human dignity. There is a sector in Israel that makes up 20% of the country’s population, in which the majority of it lives in constant fear of violence.
It is our duty as a society to make sure that everyone not only feels safe but is safe. Right now that is not the case in the Arab sector. In part, of course, it’s up to Arab-Israelis to do something about it in their own backyards. But it’s also up to us.