Dozens of residents of Kafr Qasim protested on Tuesday against a visit to the central Arab Israeli town by firebrand right-wing MKs Itamar Ben Gvir and May Golan in response to an assault on police there late last week.
“We came here to give a warm embrace to the police and to say that they must not be abandoned,” Religious Zionism MK Ben Gvir told reporters upon arriving in the town on Tuesday, accompanied by boos and chants from residents.
“The police need to have free rein to deal with criminals and terrorists,” he said.
Police arrested four suspects over the weekend, after several officers were assaulted early Friday by private security guards working for Kafr Qasim. The officers had sought to enter the town’s municipality after receiving a report that someone had been violently taken into the building, but were denied entry by the guards. A scuffle broke out and several cops were beaten and bloodied.
The guards were reportedly part of an organization hired by local leaders to maintain order in the town amid the epidemic of violent crime in the Arab community.
Speaking alongside Ben Gvir, Likud MK Golan said on Monday, “It’s easy for the media and left-wing organizations to label our visit as an attempt to stir up tension, but I want to make it clear that every Zionist and patriot who saw the images from Friday felt he was the one who got the punch himself.”
She said that the threat of unrest would not deter her from visiting Arab Israeli towns.
“If we lose sovereignty and the power of deterrence and governance — we have no right to exist in this country,” she charged.
In response to the attack on the officers, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Saturday condemned “violence in Arab society,” which he said had “reached an intolerable point.”
He tweeted: “We will fight it with all our strength. I expect the Arab community, which has been asking the state to intervene, to give police officers full backing and support.”
The incident came as police attempt to tackle a soaring wave of violent crime in the Arab community. A 40-year-old Arab man was shot dead on a Haifa street on Friday night, the 95th fatality of rampant violence in Arab society this year.
Ben Gvir entered the Knesset in March’s election after merging his far-right Otzma Yehudit party with Religious Zionism, in a deal brokered by then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Otzma Yehudit is made up of followers of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane, a former MK whose Kach party was banned from the Knesset in the 1980s — the first instance of a party being banned for racism.
Otzma Yehudit supports encouraging emigration of non-Jews from Israel and expelling Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who refuse to declare loyalty to Israel and accept diminished status in an expanded Jewish state whose sovereignty extends throughout the West Bank.