Israel launches national guard in response to Arab-Israeli riots

Israel’s Border Police to include volunteer forces trained to handle internal rioting during a national emergency.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

A new Israeli border guard force was officially launched Tuesday in response to Arab-Israeli rioting during last year’s 11-day Gaza war.

The Border Police, which is part of the Israeli police force, has been conceptually rearranged as the National Guard to include reinforcements called the “Israeli Guard.” Unpaid volunteers and members of the Border Police reserves will be recruited to the new Israel Guard.

The force is being established specifically to handle internal security situations in times of emergency, such as the massive Israeli Arab rioting that took place in mixed Jewish-Arab cities in support of Hamas during Operation Guardian of the Walls last year.

The new recruits will be trained in riot-control methods, and will be able to keep their weapons and equipment at home so that they have access to them at all times, similar to volunteer medics who always have their kits with them.

These unpaid citizens will be divided into different companies. One, called Matmid, already exists as an 8,000-strong force in the country’s periphery, and will absorb an additional 1,500 men and women over the next year and a half.

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Another two, called the “Tip of the Spear” Companies, will recruit 1,000 volunteer soldiers by the end of the year who have completed their mandatory service but still feel the call of duty to protect their country more often than doing reserve duty a few times a year. The plan is to double that number during 2023.

In his announcement of the new group, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that the need for the move was obvious and took credit for the idea.

“The Guardian of the Walls riots taught us that we have a national security threat from within,” he said, noting that he had taken office “when we were licking our wounds” from that aspect of the otherwise-successful military operation.

“Everyone realized that while we’re talking of [the danger from] Iran and Hezbollah, the problem begins at home.”

The rioters injured dozens of Jews in Lod, Ramle, Acre, Haifa and Jerusalem and killed two over a one-week period. Over 5,000 stone-throwing incidents were recorded, over a thousand homes were damaged, and ten synagogues and some 850 cars were set aflame.

It took some two days before the government declared a state of emergency and Border Police units were sent to the affected cities to quell the violence because by Israeli law, IDF soldiers cannot be used for internal security.

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Jewish residents under siege at the time complained bitterly that the regular police were very slow to respond to the danger they were in, and did not do their jobs properly to protect their neighborhoods.

According to the new plan 3,500 more volunteers will be also sought now to reinforce the regular police force, to show more of a presence on the streets and reinforce citizens’ sense of security. An additional 26 companies equipped with advanced weapons will be added to the Border Police reserves over the next few years as well.

In April, several high-ranking police and security officials told Israel Hayom that the government was dragging its feet on taking the appropriate action to prevent a repeat of the violence.