The Israel Police have established a new unit dedicated to investigating attacks carried out by right-wing Jewish extremists against Palestinian, army and left-wing targets across Israel, but the plan is already off to a rocky start.
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The original plan was for the unit to operate as a department within the West Bank’s Central Police Unit, as that is the region where most of these "price tag" attacks – 80 percent - are perpetrated.
The centralized unit would then be charged with carrying out investigations of similar incidents across the country - an arrangement similar to the one used to fight organized crime. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of price tag attacks are reported in the Jerusalem district and a few percent more have been recorded elsewhere in Israel.
But the decision to base the unit in one district angered the commanders of the other districts, as it meant that their officers would in effect be subordinate to the centralized West Bank unit in each of these investigations.
Following a stormy debate on the matter Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovich (head of police investigations) decided last week that the unit would operate only in the West Bank.
It was agreed however, that the West Bank unit would put the intelligence it gathered at the service of other districts.
In response, the Israel Police stated, "in regard to your inquiry, the purpose of the Central Police Unit in the Shay district is enforcement of these laws in the district, and during events directly linked to the district. This purpose has not changed since the squad was created. In general, and regardless of your inquiry, the operational aspects of various units are constantly being examined and considered."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the establishment of this unit 18 months ago, as a spearhead against the spiraling phenomenon of right-wing attacks. The goal was to create an in-depth intelligence database from the investigations, to make it easier to pin down the suspects in the attacks.
The "price tag" crimes unit was allocated 80 positions, a respectable number in terms of major departments. So far, approximately 30 police officers have been hired, and the rest are expected by the year’s end. Chief Superintendent Udi Levy, a veteran officer of the West Bank’s detective unit, will head the department.