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Netanyahu appoints ex-police official to combat violence in Arab communities

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is appointing retired senior police official Aharon Franko to serve as a czar for violence in Arab communities and has proposed a long-awaited plan to combat the spread of organized crime in Arab towns and cities.

According to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit, 96 Arab Israelis died in homicides in 2020, the highest in recent memory.

Netanyahu has been promising for months to propose a wide-ranging plan to combat the roots of violence in the Arab sector. The pressure has mounted in recent days following the shooting death of Ahmad Hijazi, a 22-year-old resident of Tamra, during a shootout between police and criminal gunmen.

The plan will see around 100 million NIS ($30 million) dedicated to building six new police stations in Arab cities and towns and aiming to increase the collection of illegal weaponry, among other goals.

Asked by a reporter about the timing of the plan’s announcement, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana dismissed concerns that the initiative was related to the March elections.

“It’s always a good time to save lives,” Ohana says.

Arab politicians scorn the plan as too little, too late. Franko’s appointment also sparked controversy, as the former police officer once called Arabs “ungrateful,” according to the Ynet news site.

“Netanyahu is offering us a bandaid,” says Joint List chair Ayman Odeh, adding: “It’s impossible to solve a decade of neglect with 100 million NIS.”

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