Leaders of the various Arab-majority parties that make up the Joint (Arab) List party committed Thursday to set the eradication of violence within the Arab community as their highest post-election priority.
Leaders of the recently formed slate gathered in the northern Israeli city of Taibe to sign a petition pledging to work towards a safer environment within the sector.
They called on police to seize illegal weapons in Arab cities and allocate proper resources to combat rising crime.
They further stated they will take on full political responsibility and cooperate with government officials in order to address the issue.
Since 2000, 1,050 Arab Israelis have been murdered in crime-related violence, said Kamal Rayan, head of the Aman Arab center for Safe Society, with whom the petition was jointly drafted.
“Violence is crushing our society, and we must act truly and bravely within Arab society to take responsibility for this trend,” Rayan told Israeli news outlet Maariv.
Joint List leader Ayman Odeh said the issue will be a top priority during the next Knesset. Odeh demanded police address the issue in Arab cities, just as they did in Netanya, referring to the predominantly Jewish northern Israeli city that was the center of major organized crime activities.
Jamal Zahalka, third on the list, demanded funds be allocated to the educational system and to local municipalities in order to combat violence. “All Arab local authority leaders expressed readiness to take care of the issue in cooperation with police. Just give them the funds,” he said.
The Joint Arab List was formed after the three Arab-majority parties active in the past Knesset united, largely because the electoral threshold was raised from 2% to 3.25% last March.
Two blocs — one consisting of Odeh’s Hadash party and Ahmad Tibi’s Ta’al, and the other comprising nationalist Balad and the Islamic Movement — mulled running separately, but finally decided against the move due to intense public pressure to join forces.
Most recent polls give the Joint List 13 seats in the elections, which could make it the third-largest faction in parliament after the Zionist Union and the Likud, which may position Odeh as leader of the opposition if the Likud and the Zionist Union form a unity government.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.