Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the site of a deadly shooting attack in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, vowing to “dramatically increase” police enforcement in Arab towns throughout the country and to root out pockets of lawlessness and incitement in Israel’s Arab communities.
“We will dramatically increase law enforcement services in the Arab sector,” he said. “We will open new police stations, recruit more police officers, go into all the towns and demand of everyone loyalty to the laws of the state.”
The prime minister toured the scene of Friday’s fatal attack at the Simta Bar in Dizengoff Street where he was briefed by police officials on the events and on the state of the investigation. The suspect in the attack is an Israeli Arab, Nashat Milhem of Arara in northern Israel. He fled the scene of the shooting and remained at large Saturday evening.
Netanyahu called the attack a “heinous murder” and sent his condolences to the families of the victims. He did not refer to the attack as an act of terrorism. Security sources believe the attack was nationalistically motivated, and the alleged killer served time for attacking a soldier, but his family has insisted he is not of sound mind.
While he acknowledged and expressed satisfaction with Arab leaders’ condemnation of the killings, he said this was not enough.
“We all know there is wild incitement by radical Islam in the Arab sector,” he said. “Incitement in mosques, incitement in the education system, incitement in social media.
“I will not accept two nations within Israel: a lawful nation for all its citizens and a (second) nation within a nation for some of its citizens, in pockets of lawlessness.
“Those times are over,” he stated. “Whoever wants to be Israeli must be fully Israeli — both in rights and in obligations. And the first and paramount obligation is to abide by the laws of the state.”
He added: “I expect all of the Arab Knesset members, all of them, without exception, to condemn the murder clearly and unequivocally. Murder is murder, it must be condemned and acted against by all sides.”
Netanyahu lit a candle in memory of the victims of the attack, 26-year-old Alon Bakal and 30-year-old Shimon Ruimi. Six others were wounded in the shooting, two of whom remained in serious but stable condition on Saturday.
The prime minister added: “I view positively the growing integration into the army, the national service and all aspects of national life by the Christian community, the Druze community, the Bedouins in the north and in the Muslim community as well. I call on all Israeli citizens and particularly on Israel’s Muslim citizens to choose this path, a path of integration and coexistence and peace and not a path of incitement and hatred and radicalism.”
The prime minister also urged the public to remain “alert” as the hunt for the killer continues.
Ayman Odeh, who heads the Joint (Arab) List in the Knesset, accused Netanyahu of inciting against the Arab community, and said the prime minister had done nothing in seven years to alleviate inequalities faced by Arabs in Israel. He emphasized that leaders of the Arab community had stressed that the shooting attack was “inexcusable” and “despicable.”
Leading politicians had called earlier for a crackdown on arms trafficking and illegal weapons in the country.
Zionist Union MK Tzipi Livni urged the government to launch a massive operation aimed at collecting firearms across the country in general, and in Arab Israeli communities in particular.
“A weapon on the loose without a permit is a dangerous weapon and is nothing but trouble,” Livni said, according to the Walla news site.
“The government must formulate a clear policy on the matter and initiate an operation to identify and collect weapons, especially when community leaders point out the danger and call for such action,” she added, in an apparent reference to Arab Israeli officials who have for years urged authorities to eliminate the presence of illegally obtained firearms within their cities and towns.
“This is not only an opportunity but a duty to do it now alongside additional actions, both on the political and the security level.”
Yesh Atid party chairman Yair Lapid said following the attack that “the shooting in Tel Aviv is a product of the fact that you can purchase illegal weapons just like you can buy nuts at the grocery store.” He added that the government must make it a priority to deal with the phenomenon and confiscate arms from Arab Israeli communities.
Meanwhile Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman told Ynet that the attack in Tel Aviv was possible due to the government’s inability to come up with an effective strategy to thwart terrorist activity. “The terror of individuals is a made-up invention; there is no single terrorist, there is well-organized terrorism,” he said.
The government’s inaction creates “a loophole and invites more terrorism,” Liberman continued. “There is a lack of comprehensive policy.”
The two victims of Friday’s shooting attack in central Tel Aviv will be laid to rest Sunday. The funeral of Alon Bakal, 26, will take place in Carmiel at 3 p.m. Thirty-year-old Shimon Ruimi will be buried in Ofakim, also at 3 p.m.