Israeli Police Minister Calls on Arabs Not to Listen to Lawmakers' Incitement

Public security minister tells Haaretz: Arab leaders are sending a message of violence, he has proof that Bedouin ramming attack was terrorism.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich.
Olivier Fitoussi

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called on Israel’s Arab citizens “not to follow the incitement of [Arab] Knesset members,” on Thursday. Erdan was commenting on the involvement of Arab MKs in the confrontations on Wednesday in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in which policeman Erez Levi was killed and another injured in what the police are calling a terrorist attack.

The driver, village resident Yakub Abu al-Kiyan, was shot and killed by police participating in the operation to demolish illegally built structures in the village.

>> Israel Police quick to cry 'terror' amid clashes in Bedouin town | Anaylsis <<

“My feeling is that the leadership of Israel’s Arab [community], and in particular the Knesset members, are trying to send a message that they will act with violence in order to oppose the law-enforcement authorities in carrying out [demolition] orders and judicial rulings. This is a very bad message,” said Erdan at a ceremony inaugurating the police aerial firefighting squadron at the Megiddo landing strip.

Violent clashes between police forces and residents in Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017 N/A

Erdan called on all of Israel’s Arab citizens not to follow such incitement, saying it is not to their benefit. “We want to live here together and in cooperation and bridge the gaps between us, but the law is the law and the State of Israel is a law-abiding country. No violence or threats will stop the legal authorities from carrying out their obligation to Israeli citizens and the law in Israel.”

>> Deadly clash with police could set off explosion in Israel's Arab community | Analysis <<

Erdan said he is trying to calm things down. “We are trying to strengthen the dialogue. Police commanders are creating such dialogue with mayors and leaders in the Arab community, and we will try to do this more in the next few days so that what happened yesterday will not affect other areas.”

In an interview with Army Radio, Erdan spoke about the evidence found in al-Kiyan’s home: newspapers with headlines about other car-ramming terrorist attacks and Islamic State. “They were not found as part of a stack of newspapers, it was a collection of headlines about car-ramming terror attacks, and it was not just in his house; it was in another place too, that has not yet been reported, where materials were found testifying to studying or collecting material on this topic. All these things, along with other information from the Shin Bet [security service], along with the circumstances on the ground, show it was a terrorist attack,” said Erdan.

Erdan told another local radio station that "if we'll discover that the police acted improoprly, we will demand answers from them" regarding the shooting of the Bedioun suspected of ramming his car into Israeli officer.

When asked if it was not premature to blame media for jumping to conclusions about the nature of the event before the investigation into had been completed, Erdan said he does not blame Israeli media, but rather the "terrorist." However, he added that "I think that Israeli media, and I specifically mean Israel's media, should first take the version of events of those who represent Israel's citizens and are charged with law enforcement, which is the police, [and the not the version] of outlaws and place them side by side."

On Wednesday the public security minister accused MKs from the Joint List and wrote on his Facebook page: “This blood is on your hands too. This is a serious statement, I know. But not serious like your actions on this day, you are a disgrace to the country.”

Later he attacked the media too: “Why, for God’s sake, your instincts, your part, is always in favor of the attacker? I truly don’t understand it. Just this minute the video that was taken from the air and documented the terrorist attack was released. The film refutes the lies. I hope you will have the courage and decency to apologize for the unholy balance you made between the police forces acting in all our names to enforce the law and the violent thieves who are backing a disgusting murder,” wrote Erdan.

Erdan also accused Joint List head Ayman Odeh of incitement and called for the attorney general to open an investigation. “MK Odeh must be investigated for incitement to violence and obstruction of the police as they fulfilled their duty,” he said. “I hope this day will not mark a turning point in relations between Bedouin and the state authorities. But if it does, Odeh made a very large contribution to that.”

After the incident in Umm al-Hiran, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee declared three days of mourning in the Arab community as well as a general strike in Arab local authorities on Thursday. The monitoring committee also decided to call a strike in educational institutions in the Negev, and elsewhere in the country to devote the first two lessons in schools to the incident.