Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai said on Tuesday that law enforcement would not be able to handle another outbreak of violence in the country similar to that which occurred in mixed Jewish-Arab cities in May 2021.
Shabtai spoke at a Knesset State Control Committee hearing on lessons learned from “Operation Guardian of the Walls,” the war with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip that served as the background for the rioting in Israeli cities with large populations of both Arabs and Jews. He said that while the security forces are in a better position compared to two years ago, “we’re still not where we need to be.”
Shabtai pointed to a lack of “manpower, resources, means and equipment” in explaining why the police “won’t be able to deal with such a scenario if there will be a multi-front incident in the entire State of Israel.”
The central Israeli city of Lod, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to declare a state of emergency on May 11, 2021, is missing 30%, or 56 officers, of its desired police complement.
Establishing National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir’s National Guard will not fix the lack of human resources in the police force, Shabtai said.
“If the issue of salaries for Israel Police officers is not addressed, I don’t see the manpower situation improving,” he said.
Sigal Bar Zvi, head of the Operations Division of the Israel Police, warned that “the Arab street is armed. If we experience another uprising it will be stronger.”