As if the air was not sufficiently saturated with gasoline fumes from the violent riots in Lod, Ramle, Acre and other cities, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana comes and urges Israelis to take the law into their own hands. This is what he felt compelled to write on Twitter Wednesday in response to the arrests of Jews suspected of involvement in the fatal shooting Sunday of Moussa Hassouna, an Arab resident of the city: “The arrest of the shooter and his friends in Lod, who apparently acted in self-defense, is terrible. Even if there are details the public doesn’t yet know, law-abiding citizens bearing arms increases the authorities’ power to immediately neutralize threat and danger.”
That is truly a Guide for the Perplexed to the warped regime of Benjamin Netanyahu: A caretaker government headed by a criminal defendant is reaping the fruits of the incitement and the neglect that it sowed on all fronts, as the minister of public security encourages the public, behind the back of the police – for which he is responsible – to shoot each other in the streets.
President Reuven Rivlin said Wednesday, “The Israeli government must pursue the rioters with a firm hand [and] restore security and order while fighting terrorism from Gaza without compromise.” But alongside the criticism, we must also exercise caution at this sensitive time in relations between Jews and Arabs. We have a duty to try to restore quiet and stability to the streets, not to foment a civil war.
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The situation in Israel is volatile. A state of emergency was declared in Lod and a curfew was imposed, giving the police control of the city. Other mixed Jewish-Arab cities could find themselves in a similar situation. Israel is just a step away from civil war. In such circumstances, the expectation is for responsible leadership to call on citizens to obey the law, not to take it into their own hands. The same applies to Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett, who said: “The fact that at the moment [the Jewish suspects in Lod] are in custody is a moral injustice that sends a grave message to anyone who will want to defend himself in the future.”
At a time like this, the public needs to hear leaders, Jews and Arabs alike, calling together to end the violence – like lawmaker Esawi Freige of Meretz, who tweeted: “We as leaders of the public have one task – to act to calm tensions, toward an understanding among Arabs and Jews together that we are neighbors and not enemies. Please, cease the violence.” That is the voice of responsible leadership.
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But responsibility, as we learned from the recent disaster at Mount Meron, is not part of the vocabulary of Ohana, nor of the other members of Netanyahu’s horror show of a government. The last thing Israel needs is for its citizens to go into the streets with the guns they keep at home, with or without a permit. Israel urgently needs a change in leadership. It’s a matter of life and death.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.