Netanyahu appoints task force to tackle raging crime in Arab sector

Innocent Arab bystander shot and killed in crossfire between police appears to be final impetus for government action.

By Paul Shindman, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday appointed a former Jerusalem police chief to head a task force that will deal with the high crime rate that has plagued Israel’s Arab sector for the past several years.

Former Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco will have a tough mission to tackle the lawlessness that led to a rise in murders and organized crime that police have to date been unable to stem.

“I cannot imagine a future of the State of Israel which contains a wild west without law and order, that has violence, crime, and terror. We shall overcome it,” Netanyahu said at a press conference at national police headquarters in Jerusalem.

However, unlike other media events during the campaign leading up to Israel’s March 23 elections, Netanyahu did not post the information on his Twitter feeds or official Facebook page and no statement has been issued yet by the Government Press Office as would be normal procedure.

Franco’s appointment was immediately seen as controversial by Arab leaders, who recalled disparaging comments Franco made in 2009 while heading the Jerusalem District Police. He called the Arab community “ungrateful” following clashes with police over prayers in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The government also announced earlier the establishment of a new police department to handle crime in Arab communities that will be headed by police Superintendent Jamal Khachrush, who currently serves as the director of improving police services in Arab localities.

Netanyahu’s announcement came in the wake of the death of student Ahmad Hajazi, 22, from the town of Tamra, an innocent civilian who was caught in the crossfire during a police shootout on Monday with Arab gangsters.

The incident took place when Israeli police saw two Arab gunmen shooting at a building and engaged them. The gunmen were reportedly armed with machine guns. One Arab criminal was killed and the other injured. Hajazi, who heard the gunfire, went out to investigate and was shot. It’s not known if he was shot by police or by the Arab gangsters.

This didn’t stop the thousands who attended Hajazi’s funeral on Tuesday from blaming the police, blocking traffic and burning tires in protest.

“There is the crime in Arab society and there is the crime against Arab society,” veteran Knesset members Ahmad Tibi tweeted. “Crime in Arab society is a cancer that must be fought and eradicated. The crime against Arab society is racism.”

“Bibi’s new plan is useless election spin, the whole purpose of which is his political and legal survival,” tweeted Knesset member Heba Yazbak from the Arab Joint List. “The Arab public has not forgotten or forgiven over a thousand deaths in the last decade, and years of neglect and abandonment.”

Arab leaders have for years blamed failed policing for rampant crime in their constituencies, complaining that the national police force, whose command structure is predominantly Jewish, has failed to take any effective long term steps to curb the rising violence in the Arab sector. The government has been reluctant to address the growing problem.

Those who point out that Arab society bears some blame for the violent state of affairs are branded as racists. In Oct. 2019, then-Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said, “Arab society, and I say that with sadness, is a very violent society.”

“It’s connected to the culture there. A lot of disputes that end here with a lawsuit, there they pull out a knife and gun,” he said.

Arab Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh responded, “Instead of taking responsibility for securing the safety of all citizens of this country, Erdan chooses to hide behind racist allegations and shift the responsibility onto the victims.”