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Netanyahu announces: Shin Bet security agency will join fight against Arab sector crime

Decision came following months of rising crime, and after 3-hour special ministerial session

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a cabinet meeting, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem on August 20, 2023. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Wednesday that the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) will join the fight against crime in the Arab sector.

The Ministerial Committee on Crime in Arab Society convened on Wednesday at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for a special session, reportedly lasting three hours, to address the wave of violence.

Israeli Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar, and Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara also participated in the discussion.

Since the beginning of the year, 158 Israeli Arabs have died due to crime, five of them just this week.

Two of the deaths involved local Arab leaders, including Tira Municipality Director Abd al-Rahman Kashua and a candidate for the Abu Snan Regional Council.

The death toll far exceeds the 66 deaths in the same time period due to crime in Arab society in 2022.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has been calling for Shin Bet’s involvement since January, but officially requested their involvement in June.

Netanyahu also called for the agency’s involvement to stem the growing wave of deaths.

Both Shin Bet chief Bar and legal experts have cautioned that expanding the agency’s role could lead to privacy violations of Israeli citizens and compromise sources or agents in the fight against terror.

At the meeting, it was decided that Shin Bet would assist Israeli police in acting against criminal organizations interfering in local elections immediately, as this involves no change to the laws governing the security agency's current work. However, any further involvement would require a change in the Shin Bet’s objectives and the passing of new legislation in the Knesset to authorize the change.

Following the announcement, the Committee of Mayors complained that not a single Arab representative had been invited to the meeting at the PMO.

National Unity head Benny Gantz spoke in the town of Tira, with Ra’am party chairman Mansour Abbas, saying that Netanyahu should fire Ben Gvir.

“I call on the prime minister – the responsibility is on you. No political price can compare to the blood price we pay as a society. You must fire Ben Gvir and appoint a minister who wants and can deal with the crisis. Every minute that passes it's a ticking time bomb,” Gantz said.

Abbas said he’s not waiting for the government, and called for the establishment of volunteer community security groups in Arab communities.

"Community policing must be strengthened with volunteer groups," Abbas said. "The police will train and supervise them, and they will work with them. We must take responsibility and protect our lives."

Abbas also warned that if the problem with the criminal organizations is not tackled, it will slowly spill over to Jewish citizens and force them to payfor protection.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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