Heightened efforts by the Israel Police targeting organized crime have borne fruit, including preventing the entrance of organized crime into local government, one of Israel’s top police commanders told the Knesset on Wednesday.
Manny Yitzhaki, the PID commander, was addressing the Knesset Interior Committee in a meeting devoted to examining the influence of organized crime in Israel, and efforts to combat it.
Ties between organized crime and government “could have done clear harm to democracy,” Interior Committee chair MK Miri Regev (Likud) told the committee.
The meeting came in the wake of a series of high-profile attacks between crime families, including a car bomb explosion that killed one passenger and severely wounded another in Ashkelon last week.
“No one will take the law into their own hands, not even criminals,” Regev declared last Thursday in the wake of the bombing. Regev called for “more severe punishments for such acts.”
Israel’s organized criminal organizations are relatively unstructured “gangs of criminals, rather than hierarchical structures,” Yitzhaki told the committee Wednesday morning.
Much of the law enforcement work targeting such groups focused on undercover intelligence, Yitzhaki said. He noted that most members of such criminal groups, over 300 individuals, were in prison, either in Israel or overseas.
A special police force called Lahav, or “Blade,” consisting of some 1,000 officers, was engaged in the work of combating and dismantling organized crime groups, in particular by targeting financial channels used to launder the groups’ finances, Yitzhaki noted.
Lahav’s top intelligence officer, “Kobi” — his full identity is confidential — told the committee the unit lacked manpower and resources, but had achieved significant successes nonetheless.
According to Yitzhaki, the number of public attacks between criminal groups was actually declining.
He added that police were focusing their efforts away from organized crime groups and toward gangs that earned their income largely by robbing the elderly.