ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Ben Gvir said to record Taibe mayor without his knowledge, clip leaked to press

In video, minister tells mayor whose security guard was murdered hours earlier that ‘your friends’ — Arab lawmakers — are voting against necessary gun laws

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir meets with Taibe Mayor Shuaa Masarwa Mansour at his home, in a video that was apparently leaked from the meeting, April 21, 2023. (Video screenshot)
National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir meets with Taibe Mayor Shuaa Masarwa Mansour at his home, in a video that was apparently leaked from the meeting, April 21, 2023. (Video screenshot)

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir was reported Friday to film himself speaking with Taibe’s mayor without the latter’s knowledge, telling him during a condolence call that “your friends” are voting against anti-gun laws, hours after the mayor’s security guard was shot dead.

Ben Gvir met with Shuaa Masarwa Mansour at his home after the early Friday killing of 25-year-old Adir Ganem. The guard was shot by gunmen outside the mayor’s home late Thursday. Witnesses cited by Ynet said two suspects showed up outside the home of Mansour and called the guard’s name. He emerged from inside the house, after which the suspects opened fire, according to the witnesses, and nabbed his weapon before fleeing the scene.

Prior to entering Mansour’s house on his visit, Ben Gvir was heard telling reporters “no media.” But some time later, video leaked of Ben Gvir’s comments inside, with a reporter for Ynet saying Mansour told him the clip was filmed without his knowledge and distributed by someone in Ben Gvir’s staff.

In it, the minister was heard saying: “I’ve done several things, I hope they help. There’s no magic solution.” Saying that he’s advanced several laws to curb illegal possession of weaponry, Ben Gvir said, “You know some of your friends are not enabling me to pass these laws” — an apparent reference to Arab lawmakers.

“Why vote against a gun law? … It’s your children that are paying the price, not my children.”

The minister later tweeted a screenshot from a report on the video and commented that Arab lawmakers “must join this fight” including by “backing up police action. Complaining and then doing the opposite of what is required is a formula that won’t work anymore.”

This was not the first time recently that Ben Gvir was accused of recording a person without their knowledge and then using the media for his purposes.

The media was recently leaked a recording of Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai claiming in a phone call with the minister that it was part of the “nature” and “mentality” of Arabs Israelis to kill each other. Shabtai’s office fumed at the publication of the comments in the press, saying the commissioner was shocked that Ben Gvir and his office “are recording personal conversations between the minister and the commissioner and are outraged that statements were taken out of context from a conversation that dealt with patterns of conduct in Arab society.”

The police statement did not seek to walk back the prejudiced comments attributed to Shabtai and instead lamented what the commissioner claimed was a trend in Arab society, whose members, the statement said, “refuse to reveal the identity of murderers, even when it is known to the relatives of the victims.”

Police have launched an investigation into the killing of Ganem, which brings the number of people in Arab communities to have died in violent incidents since the start of the year to 55, according to the anti-violence campaign group The Abraham Initiatives. The watchdog said 51 of them were killed by gunfire.

Police said they are looking for suspects in the murder and also checking whether the guard was the intended target of the killing.

In comments to the media shortly after the meeting with Ben Gvir, Mansour said he made “very pointed comments” to the minister. “I received him in my house. I told him, ‘If you had come [simply as yourself] I wouldn’t have let you into my house. There’s an ocean between us in political positions. You are coming in here as the minister for public security, the one in charge of my security and the security of every Arab in Israel. The deciding factor is the result: fifty-five people murdered since the start of the year is shameful for Israel, not just the police.”

Gunmen had also opened fire on Mansour’s home in Taibe two months ago, causing no injuries. Police have yet to make arrests in that incident.

Arab communities have suffered a wave of deadly violence in recent years. Many blame the police, who they claim have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars, and violence against women.

In a particularly shocking incident last Saturday, a 14-year-old was shot dead in the southern town of Rahat. According to police, he was shot during a fight. Reports said that in addition, a 17-year-old was light to moderately injured and hospitalized for treatment.

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