Murders in Arab Community Are Falling but Future Uncertain, Says Israeli Police Chief

This year, 40 Arabs were murdered from January through August, while 77 such murders occurred in 2017 and 66 in 2016, said Israeli police commissioner Roni Alsheich

Israeli Police Commissioner Roni Alshich.
Olivier Fitoussi

The number of murders in the Arab community has dropped sharply in 2018, police commissioner Roni Alsheich told the State Control Committee in the Knesset on Tuesday. This year, 40 Arabs were murdered from January through August, while 77 such murders occurred in 2017 and 66 in 2016, he said. “There is a significant reduction, but no one promises it will continue,” he told the committee.

“The inequalities are enormous and dramatic. If there is an institution in Israel that is creating a revolution in Arab society in recent years – it is the Israel Police. I don’t know of any other body that can compete with us in the depth and power of the revolution,” said Alsheich. “We haven’t done everything we wanted, and I am afraid of the future in terms of budgets for coming years.”

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Alsheich criticized the agreement between Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan that cut 250 million shekels ($68.6 million) from the plan to reduce crime in the Arab community. “We don’t see a continuation after 2020.”

Committee chairwoman, MK Shelly Yacimovich (Zionist Union), asked him in response whether he was dissatisfied with Erdan’s agreeing to the cuts, and he said: “Definitely, it does not allow the implementation of the plan.”

MKs from the Joint List confronted Alsheich during the session when he said: “In recent weeks, there has not been a single incident of shooting at weddings n the South.” MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Joint List) said: “There wasn’t one you knew about.” Alsheich answered he saying he knows the situation in the filed better than she does and “we talk with the groom in advance” of the wedding.

Alsheich also commented on the changes in the regulations for receiving a gun license, saying its influence on the Arab community is marginal. “There is very little leakage of weapons to criminals from private sources. The majority comes from overseas, the IDF or via the Palestinian Authority.” But he said the police are worried about weapons reaching people’s homes, so the police insisted on allowing only those who are properly trained and experienced to carry a pistol.

As to accusations the police are not dealing with the rise in crime in the Bedouin community properly, Alsheich the police do not have any “exterritorial areas,” not even among the Bedouin.

A report released by the State Comptroller in August noted failures of coordination between the police, IDF and Shin Bet security service in investigating the transfer of weapons within the Arab community. The police said in response to the comptroller that the Shin Bet does not pass on intelligence information on an ongoing basis, which makes it difficult to carry effective enforcement. The comptroller also noted a lack of cooperation between the IDF and the police, citing as an example the cases in which IDF troops raided workshops manufacturing weapons in the West Bank – but in the end the findings and evidence are not passed on to the police.

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Despite the police’s attempts to fight such crimes, in practice the number of such crimes has risen, said the comptroller, which testifies to police’s inability to effectively deal with the issue.

Police data presented in the comptroller’s report showed that in 2016, the theft of weapons parts rose by 75 percent compared to 2015. Another major rise was recorded in smuggling weapons from Jordan and the manufacturing of improvised weapons inside the Palestinian Authority.

The police are also facing a severe manpower shortage at police stations near Arab communities. For example, in the police stations in the Nazareth and Taibe areas, where the number of shooting incidents has risen steeply in the past year, only seven detectives were added from 2014 through 2016, as well as a a few dozen patrol officers.

So far, only two of the eleven new police stations in Arab communities planned to be established by 2020 have been opened. Among the reasons cited for this failure were bureaucratic problems and opposition form local governments.

The manpower shortage has also led to a significant drop in the number of indictments filed. Only 3.4 percent of all the firing incidents in residential neighborhoods investigated by the police station in the Kedma area resulted in indictments in 2016. A similar percentage of such cases, 3.7 percent, in the Nazareth area saw indictments filed.