Israeli Minister Pledges to Clamp Down on Crime Within Bedouin Communities

In a visit to south, Gilad Erdan promised to increase law enforcement in Arab communities after footage of Bedouin shooting during celebrations goes viral

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Israeli Public Security minister Gilad Erdan during an emergency visit in the Southern District following incidents involving illegal use of automatic weapons in the region, Beersheva, April 24, 2018
Israeli Public Security minister Gilad Erdan during an emergency visit in the Southern District following incidents involving illegal use of automatic weapons in the region, Beersheva, April 24, 2018Credit: ללא קרדיט

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan announced on Tuesday that all Border Police officers in the south will be assigned to duty to increase law enforcement in and around Bedouin communities in the Negev.

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During a visit to the Israel Police’s Southern District, Erdan hinted to lawlessness in sections of the Bedouin community: “Over a quarter of a million people live here, a large number of them are not connected to government institutions, they were born to polygamous families. Dozens of children who have nothing to lose and the police do not deter them because they are not afraid of going to prison.”

Erdan conducted his visit to the police in the south after a number of video clips were posted last week in which masked men can be seen driving wildly on Route 40, the major north-south highway in the south, and openly firing automatic weapons in the air. Erdan said he decided to act to increase law enforcement activities in the region through a number of steps, including deploying hundreds of Border Police and regular officers on the roads in the south and at the entrances to Bedouin communities.

A police station will also be established in the Bedouin town of Aroer and some 150 police officers will be stationed there. Security cameras will be hooked up to the police command center. Erdan also announced he would promote a law imposing up to five years in prison for anyone firing weapons, even if the shooters do it in the air to celebrate as is common among Palestinians in the West Bank as well as in Bedouin communities.

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Erdan said operations are constantly being conducted in the Southern District, despite the impression created by the video clips that police presence is lacking in the region, and said law enforcement has actually increased in recent years. The demolition of illegal buildings has increased, he added to corroborate his point.

Nonetheless, Erdan admitted the present enforcement was inadequate and that the issue of the Bedouin population in the south requires thorough work on the part of all government institutions. He suggested legalizing the Bedouins’ unauthorized constructions and communities as a first step, alongside improving their education and infrastructure. Without all this “it will be difficult to [continue] chasing our tails and provide an answer to everything that is happening here,” he concluded.

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