Netanyahu asks Arab MKs to work with him on community violence, bypassing Ben Gvir

At Knesset debate on sharply higher homicide rate, PM invites Arab lawmakers to meet directly with him; far-right police minister doesn’t attend session

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adresses the Knesset during a debate about the soaring homicide rate on May 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu adresses the Knesset during a debate about the soaring homicide rate on May 29, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has invited Arab lawmakers to meet with him personally about the wave of deadly violence plaguing their community rather than leaving the matter to far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, who is in charge of the Israel Police.

Arab MKs are refusing to accept Ben Gvir’s being at the meeting, Channel 12 reported Tuesday, citing an unnamed source as saying, “Netanyahu and we are really not interested in Ben Gvir’s presence at the discussion.”

Netanyahu extended his public invitation to the Arab MKs during a debate Monday in the Knesset on “The government’s helplessness in the face of doubling murder cases.” The debate was called by the opposition with the support of lawmakers to require Netanyahu be present.

Israel has seen over 90 homicides since the beginning of the year, more than twice the number during the same period in 2022. Most of the killings have been in the Arab community. Ben Gvir, who campaigned on promises to beef up personal safety and took up his position at the beginning of the year, has largely stayed quiet on the soaring murder rate. He did not attend the Knesset session.

Netanyahu addressed the Knesset after speeches from Arab MKs highlighting crime in their community.

“I heard the true cries from the members of the Knesset,” Netanyahu said. “The problem you describe is a real problem.”

He then invited Arab MKs to meet with him in his office.

“This is not for show, it comes from the bottom of my heart and it is from the understanding that I am the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel and I want your help and your cooperation and I look forward to this meeting.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir arrives at the weekly cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem, May 14, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Since the beginning of the year, 84 members of the Arab community have been killed in violent crime incidents, far higher than the total at this time last year, according to the Abraham Initiatives watchdog group.

The vast majority of the killings were caused by gunfire and six of the fatalities were women, the group’s figures show.

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