Bedouin leaders disavow soldier’s killers, urge coexistence
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Bedouin leaders disavow soldier’s killers, urge coexistence

After murder of Sgt. Ron Kokia, mayors meet with their counterpart in Arad to reaffirm commitment to neighborly relations

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Ron Yitzhak Kokia, an IDF soldier who was stabbed to death in a terror attack on November 30, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)
Ron Yitzhak Kokia, an IDF soldier who was stabbed to death in a terror attack on November 30, 2017. (Israel Defense Forces)

Mayors of Bedouin communities in the south of the country met Tuesday with the mayor of Arad to reaffirm their commitment to coexistence after the arrest of two Bedouin Israelis for the fatal stabbing of an IDF soldier last week.

They met with Mayor Nissan Ben Hamo at his office in the southern town’s municipal building. Among those who took part in the meeting were the mayors and regional council leaders of Rahat, Hura, Ar’ara Banegev, and Al-Kasom.

The two suspects were arrested on Friday on suspicion that they had killed Sgt. Ron Kokia at a bus stop in Arad the previous night, the Shin Bet security service announced on Monday, calling the incident a terror attack.

Talal al-Krenawi, mayor of Rahat, urged his community members to turn away from violence.

“We call on you, the young people, not to resort to violence,” he said. “These [attackers] are weeds that must be uprooted.”

Rahat mayor Talal al-Krenawi, January 1, 2013. (FLASH90)

Krenawi called for continued coexistence between Jewish and Bedouin communities in the area, Hadashot TV news reported.

“We denounce the attack and we are against violence,” he said. “Don’t let this grave incident harm the coexistence between us. We are in favor of tolerance and call on all the young people not to resort to violence. We must work together and live together; this is my country, as it is yours.”

Krenawi said that the Bedouin wanted to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors. “Our parents who were here wanted to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors. The way of terror attacks is not our way and is not acceptable to us.”

“This incident shocked everyone,” said Hura Mayor Muhammad al-Nabari. “A clear statement must be made from [Bedouin] society and it must be denounced. We are with you all the way, and we have proved in various other meetings that we are working toward a common goal.”

Al-Kasom regional council head Jaber Abu Kef urged greater oversight of the material that young Bedouin are exposed to.

“We need to check what our child reads and what he is doing,” he said. “We need to be an influence in the education of our children. Those who do wicked things must be dealt with forcefully.”

Arad’s Ben Hamo welcomed the strong statements from his Bedouin counterparts.

“It strengthens us that you came and are condemning this grave incident and are standing with us,” he said. “I greatly appreciate your statements and hope that they files down and also up to the leadership in the Knesset.”

Hundreds attend the funeral of 19-year old Israeli soldier Ron Kokia in the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery on December 3, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Kokia, from Tel Aviv, served in the Nahal Brigade, an infantry unit whose home base is located just outside Arad.

The assailants stole the soldier’s gun and fled the scene, prompting a widespread manhunt across southern Israel. The two suspects were arrested a day later. According to the Shin Bet, one of them confessed during an interrogation to murdering Kokia.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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