Israeli Arab Lawmakers Meet Security Minister, Demand Plan to Curb Violence in Community

Joint List chairman Ayman Odeh said that while progress was made in the three-hour meeting, 'it is far from satisfying the will of Arab citizens'

Joint List's Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi arrive at the meeting with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, October 10, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Arab Israeli lawmakers met with Public Security Gilad Erdan and police officials on Thursday to discuss what they said was law enforcement's failure to tackle violent crime in their community, the subject of ongoing protests.

In the meeting, the leaders of the Joint List alliance of four Arab-majority parties – lawmakers Ayman Odeh, Ahmad Tibi, Mansour Abbas and Mtanes Shehadeh – called for the formulation of a government plan to tackle crime in Arab communities. According to Tibi, Erdan agreed to the idea in principle but said such a plan needs to be approved in the national budget, and said he would bring up the matter with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mudar Yunis, chairman of the Forum of the Heads of Arab Local Authorities, and Majdal Krum Mayor Salim Salibi also took part in the meeting, which came after a convoy of hundreds of vehicles traveled to the Prime Minister's Office to protest.

The meeting, which lasted an unexpected three hours, included a presentation on police efforts to curb crime in Arab communities. Interim Police Commissioner Moti Cohen told participants of plans to conduct an operation to collect illegal weapons in November, adding that police are working hard to combat violence against women.

Another demand raised in the meeting was a budget to place security cameras in Arab communities. The meeting also saw police officers complaining that criticism by Arab public officials was contributing to lack of trust in law enforcement.

Odeh said after the meeting that "there is certain progress in some important areas, but this is far from satisfying the will of Arab citizens."

Thursday's protest and meeting followed a string of protests over the past two weeks, spanning about 30 Arab communities throughout the country over police inaction towards crime in their towns. 

A Haaretz inquiry has revealed that the rate at which indictments have been filed in cases involving the murders of Jews in 2019 is double than those involving Israeli Arabs. Indictments have been filed in 30 percent of the cases concerning murder of Arabs – 22 of 72 killings – compared with 58 percent of the murders of Jews – 21 of 36 cases. The number does not include a resident of Jaljulyah who was shot and killed on Tuesday evening. 

Police and Arab sources said that obstacles to solving these murder cases within Arab communities include police arriving late to crime scenes and a lack of cooperation on behalf of suspects, family members and witnesses.