Shin Bet to fight gun crime in Arab communities

Bennett beseeched Arab Israelis to trust the Jewish State’s forces.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency and the IDF will be joining the fight against rampant gun crime in Arab communities, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced Sunday.

With murders and shootings reaching record heights in Arab municipalities – often perpetrated using weapons stolen from IDF bases – the government is planning mass sweeps to confiscate illegal guns.

“This is a problem that has been ignored and neglected — it has reached monstrous magnitude,” Bennett said during a meeting on the issue on Sunday.

With some one hundred Arab Israelis murdered so far in 2021, the scale of the issue requires that the Israeli government call in reinforcements – its military and intelligence resources, the premier said.

Bennett acknowledged the long history of mistrust between Arab communities and security agencies and the army, but beseeched Arab Israelis to trust the Jewish State’s forces.

“The Arab public must understand that the security forces aren’t the enemy — they are the solution. Stand behind the police and security forces, stand behind the state.”

But Bennett’s inclusion of the military and intelligence in the fight against crime in Arab communities came as a surprise to many, including Israel’s Public Security Minister, Omer Bar Lev.

In a series of tweets on Monday, he said that IDF involvement had not previously been “discussed in any way. The IDF has no role in the plan led by the Public Security Ministry.”

“In all three hours of the meeting, the word ‘IDF’ was only mentioned in the context of weapons stolen from its bases and how to prevent that,” he clarified.

The Arab Joint List party slammed the decision, saying it was inappropriate for intelligence agencies to be involved in fighting non-terroristic, domestic crime.

“Fight criminals, not democracy. The sole responsibility for law enforcement among civilians is the police, not intelligence agencies and the military,” Joint List chair Ayman Odeh tweeted.

“After decades of government and police treating [Arab municipalities] as their backyard, the last thing we need is more of the same attitude: police for Jews and Shin Bet for Arabs.”

The Islamist Ra’am party, which has served as kingmaker in Bennett’s broad, eight-party coalition, has not made a statement regarding the IDF and Shin Bet involvement in the plan.

The issue of Shin Bet involvement in domestic issues is also controversial among Israel’s Jewish population.

Previous Shin Bet tracking of citizens in quarantine sparked outrage and a Supreme Court petition, which imposed a strict time limit on the initiative.