Police officer in charge of Arab-Israeli crime resigns

There have been 91 deaths in the Arab community so far this year, as opposed to 106 for all of 2022.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

The police officer in charge of Arab sector crime tendered his resignation Tuesday as an upsurge in Arab-on-Arab violence has swept the country.

Superintendent Natan Bozna, 60, requested to retire, and Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai accepted his request, with a police statement saying he would finish his duties “in the coming months.”

The request comes a day after National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir decided, in a meeting with the senior police echelon, to appoint a special project manager within the next two weeks to deal with serious crime and murder cases in the Arab community. The person chosen would be directly answerable to Bozna and the police commissioner.

“I intend to put the fight against crime and the murders in Arab society at the top of the priorities of the ministry of national security,” Ben-Gvir said. “I also intend to allocate enormous resources for this purpose by putting police officers in the field, raising police salaries and establishing the National Guard.”

Ben-Gvir had come into office vowing to eradicate lawlessness all over the country. It is unclear as yet what will happen with the current division Bozna was heading, with the ministry saying it will remain in place and several media reports saying it will be closed down.

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“Unfortunately, the resigning deputy commissioner did not succeed in his mission – long before I took office – and even wanted to be promoted, when professional recommendations, especially considering the current situation, did not warrant such a move.”

The 40-year veteran of the force had taken on his post last year. The assessment is that being informed of his non-promotion in the next round of senior police appointments was the trigger for his decision.

There have been 91 deaths in the Arab community so far this year, in comparison with 106 for all of 2022 – which was considered very high at the time. Much of the deadly violence, the vast majority by gunfire, has been blamed on organized crime. Only in nine cases did the police manage to gather enough evidence to indict someone for the murders.

While acknowledging the seriousness of the situation, a senior police official told Ynet that the police have also managed to prevent 29 murders “that were a minute away from being committed, with the bullet already in the chamber on its way to the liquidation.”

According to a Channel 13 report, Bozna had complained to colleagues that his department, launched in early 2021 with great fanfare by then-Justice Minister Amir Ohana (Likud), “had been established without teeth.” He also slammed Ben-Gvir for “not visiting it even once.”

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Ohana had said that the new department would recruit more Muslim police officers, build more police stations in the Arab sector, and have a “conflict desk” that would map out points of conflict and be proactive about “putting out fires before they start.” He also envisioned “a board of local leaders, of religious people, of leaders of public opinion, which will work together with the police to prevent these conflicts.”

The soaring murder rate even led Opposition Arab MKs to agree to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, bearing a long list of demands as to how to combat the phenomenon. Netanyahu announced afterwards that a special ministerial committee would be formed under his personal aegis to fight the rising crime in their sector.