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Unveiling ‘Eisenkot Plan,’ National Unity makes security-related election pitch

Gantz’s party says internal security is a top priority, vowing to increase resources to fight organized crime and proposing no-warrant searches for ‘serious crimes’

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Former IDF chief of staff and Knesset candidate Gadi Eisenkot unveils the National Unity party's plan for improving Israel's internal security, October 18, 2022. (Elad Malka)
Former IDF chief of staff and Knesset candidate Gadi Eisenkot unveils the National Unity party's plan for improving Israel's internal security, October 18, 2022. (Elad Malka)

The National Unity party on Tuesday publicly launched its plan for increasing national security within Israel, just two weeks ahead of the national election.

With two former military heads at its helm, National Unity and its “Eisenkot Plan” — named for former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff and number three on the party’s list Gadi Eisenkot — is proposing a stern swath of resource, deterrence and governance reforms to quell internal terrorism and organized crime.

The party pledged to tackle both terror-related incidents — as violence has roiled East Jerusalem and the West Bank in recent weeks — as well as underworld criminal elements which plague many areas of Israel, in particular its Arab communities.

“I know that the residents of the south and the north, the farmers, the Arab citizens of Israel — have had their fill of promises and words,” said Defense Minister and party head Benny Gantz, introducing the plan.

The party is promising to increase police resources, intensify criminal punishments, and root out organized crime. To coordinate the effort, the party proposes creating a “war on crime” cabinet under the next prime minister, similar to the current security cabinet.

“The phenomena of crime and the loss of personal security of residents and civilians has reached the point of harming national security in routine and emergency situations — as we saw the events during Operation Guardian of the Walls,” said Eisenkot, referring to May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, which spilled over into Arab-Jewish violence within Israel.

The Eisenkot plan would “double” police ranks by focusing on recruiting former combat soldiers, reinforcing ranks with 3,000 drafted soldiers serving with the police and deploying the Border Police for national emergencies, creating special urban units to show police presence, and improving financial incentives to retain officers.

The plan also pushes for rapid adjudication of offenders by beefing up the ranks of judges and prosecutors, and also for eliminating the possibility of shortened sentences for people serving life sentences, barring “special circumstances.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz unveils the National Unity party’s plan for improving Israel’s internal security, October 18, 2022. (Elad Malka)

To fight organized crime, the plan will focus on reducing illegal weapons on the streets, a cause championed in the outgoing Knesset by Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, number two on the party list.

Reforming governance and personal security “is the issue in which I have invested the most legislative efforts over the past year,” said Sa’ar, who championed a law that increased minimum sentences for illegal weapons offenses.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz (L) and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 22, 2022. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

“For a long time, and especially during Netanyahu’s term, this issue was completely neglected, swept under the rug and hardly addressed at all,” he added.

National Unity’s plan would also focus on fighting the phenomenon of paying protection money and increasing police and enforcement authority powers to combat organized crime, especially with regard to money laundering and tax evasion.

In one of the plan’s more extreme proposals, it would eliminate the need to receive a search warrant in the case of “serious crime.”

With regard to terror, it would also treat “agricultural terror” like nationalist terror. In the past year, blazes ignited by burning balloons launched from Gaza have wrought damage across Israeli farms.

“This plan will be one of the first issues that a government I head will promote,” Gantz said at its unveiling.

Gantz, also a former IDF chief of staff, is trying to wrest the title of being trustworthy on security away from right-religious bloc leader Benjamin Netanyahu, employing the phrase “a secure prime minister” in his last-push campaign.

Coming into the election’s final days, no potential bloc leader has a clear-cut path to power, and Gantz is hoping to be a compromise candidate able to stitch together a governmental alternative to a sixth election.

“An extremist government will only radicalize the situation, and a sixth election will not allow it to be dealt with,” said Gantz. “We need a state, responsible and experienced leadership in a stable government to deal with crime.”

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