The Lod Problem and Its Roots

If the roots of crime are not dealt with, crime will continue to persist.

Five minutes from Israel's international airport, right under the nose of the Israel Police's "Lahav 433" crime-fighting unit, the city of Lod is at the mercy of murderers and other criminals. This week, within two days, two citizens, Amal Khalili and Sami Hijazi, were murdered in front of their family members.

These were not the first grave crimes committed in Lod of late, but this time the scale of the problem is evident. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch were compelled to speak about the need for restoring safety and a sense of security to Lod's residents. The police will undertake a major campaign; if necessary, the Shin Bet and the Israel Defense Forces will join the effort.

This effort, however, comes too late, not only for the victims, but for the entire city of Lod. In its Arab neighborhoods - as is also the case in other Arab towns and villages - the police do not wield authority. Weapons have stockpiled and crimes are committed in broad daylight. In a move tantamount to collective punishment, the state has stopped trying to enforce the law in these areas.

There is no need to wait for nationwide eruptions of violence akin to those we experienced in October 2000, or for events that subsequently transpired in Jaffa, Acre and Bedouin settlements in the Negev, to grasp that the problem is not limited to one area. Israel cannot countenance a situation of autonomy enjoyed by law-breakers who spread fear among local residents. What must happen is an uprooting of crime dens, carried out by the police forces with the support of state prosecutors and the judicial system. Without arrests, prosecution, convictions and stiff sentences, there is no chance that deterrence will work, and that residents will begin to respect the law and those who enforcer it.

This problem should be viewed in the context of the larger state modus operandi, beyond simply the police and legal authorities. If the government does not want its towns and cities to be ruled according to 19th-century law, it must tend to them and allocate resources to them according to 21st century principles. It must take action to narrow gaps between Jews and Arabs in infrastructure, education and opportunities. If the roots of crime are not dealt with, crime will continue to persist.