The Knesset dissolved on Tuesday without advancing the government’s plan for combating the rampant violence in Arab society. Foot-dragging in approving this plan got the upper hand and Arab citizens were the losers yet again. All of this, despite the fact that 2020 was the most lethal year in the last 20, with 95 murder victims. It appears that as far as the government and Knesset are concerned, the Arab public has to make do with empty promises.
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Over a month ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while wooing a political partner who might enable his continued rule, participated in a meeting of the Knesset committee charged with addressing the violence in Arab society. The committee was chaired by MK Mansour Abbas (United Arab List). Netanyahu said at the meeting that he would submit a plan addressing the problem for cabinet approval. However, nothing has happened since then. It has been said that the plan is being dealt with, along with other excuses, but in the absence of a state budget, there was no chance of implementing a plan. As everyone waited patiently, the Knesset was dissolved.
With Arab citizens again pushed to the bottom of the list in terms of national priorities, their protests against violence in their society returned to the streets. A protest convoy left Kafr Qara in the north for Jerusalem on Monday. However, given the current situation, with coronavirus infections on the rise, with economic woes and lockdowns, it’s not clear that this protest will go anywhere and have any impact.
The public, both Arabs and Jews, must wake up and understand that this is an elementary civil and human demand: The state must guarantee the personal safety of its citizens. To do this, illegal weapons must be confiscated and criminals apprehended and imprisoned. Crime gangs in Arab cities must be broken up, just as the state acts when it comes to Jews.
The violence in Arab communities requires urgent action. It’s not an internal problem beleaguering Arab society, although the authorities’ handling of it suggests that this is how it’s perceived. The gap between the number of solved murder cases in Arab cities and in Jewish cities is huge. Since the beginning of this year, 53 percent of incidents that ended with fatalities in Jewish communities have been solved, whereas the number in Arab communities stands at 21 percent. These figures point to criminal negligence. The personal safety of Arab citizens is of no interest to cabinet members. As long as the victims were Arab, the assailants were not important targets for the police, and the general public remained indifferent.
This attitude to the Arab minority must change immediately. The change must include a fair allocation of resources and budgets. The government, any government, must approve forthwith the plan for combating violence in Arab society and allocate resources for its implementation. Any further delay will result in more victims.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.