Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan told Arab leaders during a meeting Thursday that police would allocate 600 officers to handle violent crime in the Arab sector, as well as focus resources on investigating organized crime.
Erdan, along with interim Police Commissioner Motti Cohen, met with Arab politicians and community leaders to discuss the problem of violence in the Arab sector, amidst ongoing protests in the Arab community against a lack of law enforcement in their communities.
After the conversation in Jerusalem Joint List party chief Ayman Odeh said it was “an important meeting, but our main demand is a government decision and a wide-ranging plan to eradicate violence and crime in Arab society… the talks will continue and the struggle will go on.”
The Joint List’s MK Ahmad Tibi said Erdan had agreed there was a need for a government decision and said he would seek to promote such action, but noted this would have budgetary requirements.
In an evening interview with Channel 13 Erdan admitted that for years “No police stations were established and no policemen allocated” to handle the Arab sector. He claimed that since entering office he had placed the issue “at the top of the agenda” but said he was “frustrated that we did not meet with cooperation and the lack of trust continued.”
Erdan further complained that many in the Arab public carry illegal weaponry and that “judges in Israel do not give long enough sentences to those caught with illegal weapons, and it’s difficult to deter crime organizaions in this manner.”
The meeting came after the Arab politicians led a protest convoy of vehicles from Majd al-Krum in northern Israel Thursday morning along Route 6 to the capital. The demonstrators drove slowly on their way to the capital, causing heavy traffic on Israel’s main highways, Route 1 and 6, Channel 12 reported.
Shortly before the meeting, Odeh wrote on Twitter: “We’re going into a meeting with Erdan and the police chief after 1,387 unnecessary funerals. The solutions have been on the table for years — the eradication of crime is only a matter of will.”
Protesters also demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, Channel 13 said.
The march came a week after the Arab Israeli community called a general strike and began holding large protests against rampant violence and the lack of law enforcement in their towns.
The protesters are “struggling for their right to live,” said Tibi. “Tens of thousands that protested, especially women and youth, they are our culture. They’re asking for life instead of death. There is a small segment of our society that are criminal groups that use violence as a tool. We’re aiming at them, and want the police to handle them.”
On Thursday, Blue and White party chief Benny Gantz spoke in favor of the meeting between Arab leaders and Erdan.
“The violence in the Arab community is a national problem,” he said, “and therefore it is a challenge first and foremost for the country as well as for the Arab community itself.”
Violence in Israel’s Arab community has killed 73 people since the beginning of the year.
The convoy was organized by the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel, an extra-parliamentary umbrella organization representing the Arab population of Israel.
Protests against the increase of violence and murders within Arab communities have expanded in recent days throughout the country, with thousands demonstrating last weekend.
Arab leaders say the Israel Police largely ignores the violence in their communities, everything from family feuds and mafia turf wars to domestic violence and so-called honor killings.
Police say they are doing everything they can to stem the violence. They say local leaders need to do more to cooperate with police and to prevent violence.
The meeting with Erdan comes days after the minister drew accusations of racism from Arab MKs for saying that violence in Arab Israeli communities is due to culture.
“It’s a very, very — and another thousand times — very violent society,” Erdan told Jerusalem Radio on Monday. “It’s connected to the culture there. A lot of disputes that end here with a lawsuit, there they pull out a knife and gun.”
Erdan also said that in the Arab society, “a mother can give a son permission to murder a sister because she’s going out with a man who’s not pleasing to the family.”
Odeh responded by saying Erdan “prefers to hide behind racist claims and to throw the responsibility on the murdered.”
Following the criticism, Erdan said his words had been distorted and taken out of context.
“The main responsibility for the fight against crime and violence in Arab society is of the government and police,” he tweeted. “The Arab public is… law abiding.
Tibi, meanwhile, said that Erdan’s explanation was significant in that the minister was making it clear the violence was coming from only a small minority of the community.
“The Joint List noted that Erdan’s remarks last night were an important clarification, when he said that he didn’t mean that all of the Arab population resorts to violence — only small parts — while the overwhelming majority of the public are law-abiding,” Tibi said, according to Ynet.
Mass protests are planned for October 21 and 27, outside police headquarters in Nazareth and Ramle, respectively. On the 27th, organizers plan to set up protest tents outside government offices in the capital.