Wednesday’s emergency Knesset meeting about recent attacks on Jewish communities in mixed cities

Today (26 May) we participated in an emergency Knesset hearing to discuss the explosion of lawlessness throughout Israel in recent weeks. The hearing, organized by Regavim and MK Amichai Chikli of Yemina, was attended by many Members of Knesset, local leaders, civil organizations, and residents of mixed cities.

In his remarks, Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s Director General, criticized the Police: “Even if we accept that the Police was surprised by these riots, we must not accept that they will be surprised by the next round [of violence].”

“For many years, Regavim has warned that failures in law enforcement against seemingly isolated and unrelated issues – such as illegal construction, protection rackets, drug trafficking, and violence and dangerous behavior on the country’s roads – results in an atmosphere of chaos and the erosion of governance. Where there is no governance, there is anarchy, and almost inevitably – full scale war that threatens the existence of the State.

“The anarchy that began in Jerusalem with lynches, rock and incendiary attacks and vandalism, spread to blocking of roads from the north to the south of the country, and then to attacks against Jewish residents in mixed neighborhoods [where Arabs and Jews live side-by-side]”.

Deutsch said that he came to Lod at the beginning of the riots, answering calls for help from regular citizens whose lives had been turned upside down and were now under threat. Regavim suspended normal operations to focus its energies and expertise on Lod, purchasing equipment to protect besieged residents and the volunteers who came to their aid, and setting up a ‘situation room’ to answer hundreds of calls for help and thousands of offers of assistance that poured in from around the country.

“Every IDF soldier knows that every training exercise, and certainly every operational incident, is immediately followed up with an internal investigation; this is how we learn, how we improve our preparedness and our operational capabilities. It’s how we learn the lessons necessary to do better next time. For the first 72 hours of the riots, the Police did not function, and Lod residents, whose lives were at serious risk, were left to protect themselves, by themselves. Then volunteers came from all over the country to help, and only then did the Police step in.

“Even if the Israel Police did not anticipate riots of this sort or this magnitude, what are they doing to learn the lessons that will prevent a recurrence? Where is the self-examination by the Police, the Minister of Public Security, the Prime Minister? As things now stand, the next outburst of violence is only a matter of time”.

Deutsch called on the government to formulate a comprehensive and adequately-funded plan to restore law and order and to bring governance to the Negev, the Gallil, and cities throughout Israel through equal and universal enforcement of the law.

Following last night’s events in Tamra, an Arab town in northern Israel, the Regavim Movement applauds the decisive law enforcement activity by the Israel Police and calls on the leaders of the Israeli-Arab sector to support Israel Police efforts to eradicate organized crime.

In recent weeks, the Israel Police have carried out extensive – and long overdue – enforcement activity against organized crime operations and operatives, focusing on the scourge of illegal weapons in the Arab sector. After years of inaction that took a heavy toll on Arab society and both symbolized and contributed to the erosion of governance and Israeli sovereignty, these enforcement sweeps mark a change of course.

“The circumstances of the death of Ahmad Hijazi, who was killed last night during the exchange of fire between the police and criminal organizations, must be thoroughly investigated. That said, the complexity and difficulty of restoring law and order to Israeli Arab towns and villages should not be underestimated,” said Yakhin Zik, Director of Operations at Regavim. “The citizens of Israel who live in these communities continue to pay a high price for the years of inaction, and rooting out the criminal elements will be a long and challenging process.”

“The Regavim Movement has been monitoring and documenting the deterioration of the rule of law for years – and have often been harshly criticized for doing so. We are gratified that the Israeli government has begun to address the harsh reality that we have described for far too long.”

“Regavim applauds Minister of Internal Security Amir Ohana, and the Israel Police for their determined efforts in this Sisyphean task,” added Zik. “We hope that the important steps that have been taken thus far to restore governance and security will continue, and we call upon the leaders of Israel’s Arab sector and members of the Knesset to give their full support to the Israel Police efforts to battle organized crime in their community.”