Spike in Arab murders poses ‘existential threat’ to Israel: Ben-Gvir

“There’s a reality that is bad, and it’s going to get worse,” said National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir. “We don’t fully grasp the issue.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News Staff

Under fire for soaring murder rates in the Arab community, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir said that the spike in killings poses a serious threat to the Jewish State.

“The reality is that we have an existential threat,” Ben-Gvir told Kan News during an interview on Wednesday evening.

“It’s not just the over 150 people killed, may their memory be a blessing, we have a bigger threat,” he added.

Israel’s Arab communities have seen a spike in murders in 2023, most of which are believed to have been perpetrated by organized crime gangs.

According to the Abraham Initiatives NGO, at least 156 Arab citizens of Israel have been murdered some eight months into the year, compared to 112 killed in the entirety of 2022.

“Crime in the Arab sector could very well spill over into the Jewish sector,” Ben-Gvir said, noting that the perpetrators of the killings “have [arsenals of] weapons that could all be directed at us upon command,” Ben-Gvir told Kan.

The gangs often use automatic rifles and ammunition that are stolen from IDF bases. The minister acknowledged that he does not solely blame his predecessor, Omer Bar-Lev, for the proliferation of arms among Arab criminal elements. The issue of weapons theft from the military are part of “years upon years” of neglect regarding crime in the sector, he said.

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“It’s going from being a crime problem to a security threat to the State of Israel,” Ben-Gvir said. “There’s a reality that is bad, and it’s going to get worse. We don’t fully grasp the issue.”

Several politically motivated slayings, which saw the director-general of the Arab city of Tira gunned down next to a local police station, and a quadruple homicide in which a mayoral candidate in the Druze city of Abu Snan was assassinated alongside his cousins and friend, have sparked demands for the Shin Bet intelligence agency to probe the murders.

The Shin Bet has signaled its reluctance regarding the idea, with officials telling Hebrew-language media that the entity does not want to become the primary police force regarding the Arab community. The agency is also concerned that its operational procedures and intelligence strategies may become public knowledge should they repeatedly investigate slayings in the same cities and towns.

Some Arab-Israeli activists have blamed what they claim is police inaction for the uptick in murders in the community, noting that less than half of killings result in a criminal indictment. The rate of convictions for accused murderers in the sector is even lower.

Police have countered that Arab Israeli witnesses to slayings are unwilling to cooperate with investigators and are reticent to appear in court to testify against the criminals.