Minister Fumes as Top Cop Says There Were ‘Terrorists on Both Sides’ of Jewish-Arab Clashes

Commissioner Kobi Shabtai says ‘Jews and Arabs lived here together before and we will live together here for a long time after’ as Amir Ohana and Bezalel Smotrich decry his remarks

Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner
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Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, in Jerusalem last month.
Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, in Jerusalem last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Josh Breiner
Josh Breiner

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai drew criticism from right-wing lawmakers Tuesday for his remarks on the violent clashes between Jews and Arabs throughout Israel in recent days. “There were terrorists from both sides and we will bring every one of them to justice,” Shabtai said. “Like it or not, Jews and Arabs lived here together before and we will live together here for a long time after.”

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana of Likud, whose ministry oversees the police, called Shabtai’s comments “outrageous remarks that did not need to be said.” In a tweet, Ohana said that “In order to deal with the problem we need to recognize it: Arab rioters attacked Jews, police officers, synagogues. The policy is to act aggressively in the face of terrorist rioters.”

He added, “This is not and was not symmetrical. Yes, the few that attacked Arabs – will also be treated severely. From this to ‘two sides’ – is quite the stretch,” said Ohana.

Religious Zionism MK Bezalel Smotrich called on Twitter for Shabtai to be fired. “The political leadership that keeps him in his post and abandons the people of Israel to his inaction is exactly as responsible as he is, and it is inappropriate to leave him in his job,” he wrote.

Shabtai “spits in the faces of the people of Israel on a live broadcast,” he wrote, and on his watch, people are “beaten and attacked and murdered, and their property is looted and burned.” People have “lost their personal safety and are living under blockade in entire communities that remain cut off for the entire night,” tweeted Smotrich. “This distorted treatment, morally and practically, of course explains the resounding failure of the police in restoring peace and security.”

Last week, four Jewish men were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the shooting death of Moussa Hassouna, an Arab man, amid riots in the city of Lod. Ohana decried the arrests, writing: “The arrest of the shooter and his friends in Lod, who apparently acted in self-defense, is a terrible thing. Even if there are details the public isn’t aware of yet, law-abiding citizens bearing arms increases the authorities’ ability to prevent any threat or danger.

"Arrests and releases aren’t for the minister to decide. If it were, they’d be released. The law enforcement system would do well to do that.”

All four were released days later; they said during questioning that they were acting in self-defense after a few young men approached them and tried to harm them. Police suspect that at least one of them aimed his weapon at the group of Arabs rather than in the air, as they claim.

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