Hosting a meal to conclude the 17th day of Ramadan fasting on Monday night, President Reuven Rivlin called for cooperation between the state and Arab leadership to uproot violence in Arab towns.

The traditional iftar meal is hosted annually at the President’s Residence and he took the opportunity to speak out about burgeoning crime in Arab communities.

“We will not be able to uproot this violence without complete cooperation between the sides, between the security and law enforcement forces in the State of Israel, whose duty it is to provide a sense of security to every citizen, and between the Arab political and civilian leadership,” Rivlin said.

The president said that Israeli Arabs were currently experiencing a particularly difficult period of violence. On Saturday thousands of people in the Arab town of Kafr Qassem protested against rampant crime and the police’s failure to control it.

“We are meeting here not at an easy time,” he said. “The Arab public in Israel is crying out against a plague of rampant violence in Arab towns, against infiltration of criminal organizations, which are impacting the lives of innocent people. I am pained by this severe distress. A sense of personal security is a basic condition for normal life. For life in a proper society.”

President Reuven Rivlin hosts Muslim leaders and foreign diplomats for an iftar meal to end the day of Ramadan fasting at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on June 12, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

President Reuven Rivlin hosts Muslim leaders and foreign diplomats for an iftar meal to end the day of Ramadan fasting at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem on June 12, 2017. (Mark Neiman/GPO)

Rivlin said he would be taking concrete steps to build trust between police and the citizens, and to improve cooperation and security.

“In the coming weeks, we are interested in hosting here a working meeting between the police leadership and the Arab regional authority heads,” he said. “I hope that meeting will be a further step in building confidence and cooperation. We are dealing with people’s lives. I hope and pray that… this will return the sense of security to the streets and households.”

The president of Israel’s Shariya Court of Appeals, Sheikh Abed Alhakim Samara, voiced his concern over the rampant crime in Arab neighborhoods.

“We as citizens feel that our personal safety is completely abandoned,” he said. “Crime organizations are taking over our lives. They became a kind of government that lived in the shade. Trafficking in arms, drugs, women, increasing at a frightening rate.”

Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ganim complained about the proliferation of illegal firearms.

“Thousands of weapons circulate in the communities,” he said. “Our hands are straining to reign in the illegal weapons. It is a malignant cancer.”

Other guests at the iftar meal included ambassadors to Israel from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, as well as qadis, regional authority heads, representatives of the IDF, Police, Prison Services, leading figures in Israeli industry, academics, teachers, and doctors.