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Netanyahu backs bringing Shin Bet into fight against Arab crime

More than a hundred Arab citizens have died in criminal violence since Jan. 1

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 4, 2023. Photo by Amit Shabi/POOL.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives for the Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, June 4, 2023. Photo by Amit Shabi/POOL.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu endorsed a proposal that the Israel Security Agency (Shin Be) take a more active role in combating the crime wave in Israel’s Arab sector.

Netanyahu spoke during the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem.

Since the beginning of the year, 102 Arabs have been killed in criminal violence. The spike in violence is attributed to organized crime groups fighting turf battles and trying to eliminate rivals. On Thursday, five people were gunned down at a carwash in Yafa an-Naseriyye, a town near Nazareth.

Arab Israelis have called for the government to take stronger measures against the criminal gangs, but they are deeply opposed to the Shin Bet being tasked with fighting crime.

“A significant part of this crime is the result of criminal organizations that embitter the lives of the Arab citizens of Israel and use terror and fear to impose their will on their communities, controlling protection rackets that become a general blow and not only in the Arab sector,” Netanyahu said.

“We are determined to fight this criminal phenomenon, first and foremost the head of the snake in the criminal organizations. For this purpose, today I will convene a special meeting of the government ministries and legal counsel, to integrate the Shin Bet in a targeted effort against the crime families,” the prime minister said.

Netanyahu said that the government allocated money to hire thousands of police officers and to establish a National Guard, “but it takes time to establish, absorb and train these forces—and we don’t have time. That is why I insist on immediately bringing the Shin Bet into the campaign.”

The Shin Bet is primarily responsible for counterterrorism, counter-espionage and protecting VIPs.

The Shin Bet and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara have objected to proposals for the agency to take a more active role in battling Arab crime.

Agency leaders are concerned that employing it to fight domestic crime will lead to the exposure of its methods, while Baharav-Miara and previous Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit have argued that the Shin Bet should only have a “limited role” in fighting crime.

“I hear criticism from those who say that ‘it won’t change anything’, and from those who say that ‘this is too radical a step’. I believe that this is exactly the necessary step and the problems involved in implementing this step should be overcome,” Netanyahu said.

“This is the only way we can quickly reverse the trend and provide an answer to the Arab citizens of Israel who wish for the return of law and order to their lives,” he said.

On Thursday, freshman Likud MK Eliyahu Revivo said that he considered himself “free from coalition commitment” until the government advances his bill to enable the Shin Bet to become more active.

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