Top cop tasked with combatting Arab community violence quits as killings spike

No reason given for Natan Bozna’s resignation; TV report says he complained unit had no power, bashed Ben Gvir, who in turn charges he ‘didn’t succeed… long before I took office’

Israel Police deputy commissioner Natan Bozna (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)
Israel Police deputy commissioner Natan Bozna (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with clause 27a of the copyright law)

The head of a police unit tasked with fighting crime among Israeli Arabs resigned Tuesday, as leaders sought answers for a surge of deadly violence gripping the community.

Deputy Commissioner Natan Bozna submitted a request to retire and collect his pension, police said. No reason for the departure was given by Bozna or the force.

A statement from police said Commissioner Kobi Shabtai accepted Bozna’s resignation.

“The two agreed that Deputy Commissioner Bozna will retire in the coming months,” the statement said.

Bozna, 60, who had served as as officer since 1984, is the 11th deputy commissioner to resign since Shabtai became police chief in 2021.

According to the Abraham Initiatives anti-violence monitor, 91 Arabs have been killed in violent circumstances since the start of the year, a major leap from the 34 slayings at this point in 2022. Police, politicians and community leaders have struggled over the past several years to rein in criminal activity driving the spiking violence, which has appeared to ramp up in recent months.

According to the Ynet news site, which cited unnamed senior police officers, Shabtai was “showing Bozna the door” after he was passed over in the most recent round of senior promotions.

A report by Channel 13 news said Bozna had complained to associates that his unit lacked teeth and bashed National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir for “not even once visiting.”

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai (left) and Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir at the Israel Police Independence Day ceremony at the National Headquarters of the Israel Police in Jerusalem, April 20, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

In response, Ben Gvir told the network that Bozna “didn’t succeed in his mission long before I took office and even wanted to be promoted.”

“Your role was to thwart violence in the Arab community… the violence is the result of years of neglect in the Arab sector,” Ben Gvir wrote in a follow-up tweet. “The rest of the stories and search for blame is an evasion.”

Police did not announce a replacement for Bozna. Ynet reported the unit would be shuttered, though there was no confirmation of this.

The announcement came a day after Ben Gvir said he would appoint a policy coordinator to help address the rampant bloodshed.

Also Monday, MKs from Arab political union Hadash-Ta’al met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the problem and demand urgent action to combat the crime wave.

Police at the scene of a shooting in the central city of Lod, April 14, 2023. (Israel Police)

The sides agreed with Netanyahu to form a committee for fighting violence in the Arab community that the prime minister himself will head, Netanyahu’s office said.

Analysts say the killings have been driven by underworld violence fueled by powerful gangs engaged in extortion, loan sharking, protection rackets and other criminal activities. Many of the shootings are also suspected of being part of turf wars between the rival syndicates.

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