Israel Approves Calling Up More Border Police in Mixed Jewish-Arab Cities

The plan, presented by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana, involves the immediate recruitment of 300 police officers and putting together a government team to consider installing security cameras

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Border Police forces in Lod, in May.
Border Police forces in Lod, in May.Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

The Israeli cabinet approved Friday a plan by Public Security Minister Amir Ohana to station additional Border Police forces in the country's mixed Jewish-Arab cities for the coming months, following the unrest that gripped them over the past few weeks.

According to the plan, which would see two more Border Police companies transferred to these cities for up to three months, is "For the good of safeguarding the public order" and will reinforce the cities' police stations.

The plan also includes immediately recruiting 300 police officers to temporarily augment police forces in mixed cities. It also calls for a governmental team to formulate what Ohana termed the "safe city" plan in these Jewish-Arab locales, which includes installing security cameras and other means, such as drones, whose footage would be fed to police command centers. The team will be led by the Public Security Ministry and the police; representatives of the interior, justice and community development ministries will also participate.

The proposal that the cabinet approved is a more limited version of Ohana's original plan, which was initially supposed to cost billions of shekels. That initial plan included the immediate recruitment of 700 police officers, as well as increasing the number of officers by 5,000 in the next three years. The plan was drafted based on police assessments that a shortage of officers and Border Police reservists made it more difficult for the organization to swiftly respond to the violent riots in mixed cities last month.

The Finance Ministry opposed the original plan, as did the law enforcement system and the police itself. They claimed that it was not a shortage of manpower that made it difficult to quell the outbreaks, but a lack of preparation.

"The police had enough officers then and they have enough officers now, but they were not adequately prepared for riots," a senior law enforcement official told Haaretz. "They tried to take advantage of these events along the way to increase the number of officers, but I'm not sure that's the solution."

On Thursday, the police announced that they have finished their wave of arrests targeting those involved in the riots in mixed cities, which it called Operation Law and Order. According to the police statement, 2,142 people were arrested since Israel's flare-up in Gaza began last month, 91 percent of whom are Arab. A total of 614 suspects remain in custody and 184 indictments have been filed in 389 cases against 285 defendants.

The police have been criticized for their handling of the disturbances, which included attacks on Jews and Arabs. Among the incidents were some involving gunfire, arson attacks on synagogues and cars, stone-throwing, hurling flares and violent attacks on individuals in Acre, Jaffa and Bat Yam. Two people were killed – one Arab and one Jewish – during rioting in Lod.

Jonathan Lis contributed to this report.

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