Prime Minister Naftali Bennett established a government team of ministers to battle the ongoing violence and crime in Israel’s Arab community, an official said Monday.
A member of Bennett’s entourage to New York told reporters that the prime minister will head the special panel, and it was slated to meet for the first time on Sunday.
“Israeli Arabs are the ones begging us to involve the Shin Bet in activities on the issue. We will do it correctly and systematically,” the official was quoted as saying.
Israel’s Shin Bet security agency, which rarely operates openly within Israel, was involved in clamping down on local violence in mixed Jewish-Arab cities, during May’s 11-day war in Gaza.
The move faced criticism from Arab politicians, including Joint Link MK Ayman Odeh, who has repeatedly claimed the police alone can curb the violence plaguing the Arab community.
Violent crime has risen to record levels in Arab communities in recent years, with 79 Arab Israeli citizens killed in apparent homicides since 2021 began, according to a tally by the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit. Another 15 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli territory.
Former senior police official, and current deputy public security minister Yoav Segalovitz was tapped as the team’s commissioner. He is expected to organize its plan of action, the official said.
Authorities have vowed to devote more resources to battling crime in Arab locales, after a series of recent shootings triggered the online #Arab_Lives_Matter campaign to protest the alleged lack of police action.
Dozens gathered on Saturday to protests against the continuing violence, near the home of Public Security Minister Omer Barlev in Kochav Ya’ir.
Arab Israelis blame the police, which they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.
According to a 2020 Knesset report, some 400,000 illegal weapons are circulating in Israel, the vast majority in Arab communities.
In July, Bennett said that violence and crime in Arab Israeli communities was a “national calamity,” as he met with senior government and police officials to formulate a national plan to tackle the issue.