From far away, it may seem surprising that Israelis still continue to seek normal relations with the Arabs with whom we share so many aspects of life. Anyone in doubt about this needs simply to walk into any Israeli hospital.
The lifting of a gag order yesterday (Sunday) about a criminal prosecution is a fresh cause for consternation about neighbourly relations. It’s a case that started out as a burglary – not an uncommon crime here. But it has become something much more unsettling.
In suburban Ra’anana, a few minutes drive north of Tel Aviv, the apartment of the Lerner family was robbed in October 2011. The Haaretz account yesterday says police established that entry had been achieved by the use of the front door key. It soon emerged that the building contractor on the property next door had been given the key. It then somehow ended up in the hands of one of the construction workers. Police were called to the scene, and while questioning him, Eyal Lerner collapsed and eventually had to be rushed to intensive care where his life was saved. Soon afterwards, his wife and two and a half year old son as well as one of the police needed urgent hospitalization as well. Suspecting poison, the police carried out tests; these established that bottle of grapefruit juice and of water along with other food items had been tampered with, and contaminated with large, probably lethal, doses of pesticide.
The suspects are Hossam Abd El-Rahim, 37, from the Israeli Arab town of Tira; and Otman Nas’ara, 47, from the town of Beit Furik in the West Bank. The name of the third suspect remains subject to the gag order. All were charged yesterday with conspiracy to commit a crime and burglary.
The authorities who went to Nas’ara’s home in the West Bank were attacked by rock-throwing locals. Undeterred, they found poison in his home and have charged him with attempted murder. He admitted the charge, citing – as Haaretz calls them – “nationalistic motives”. Everyone in our postal code understands that’s a common euphemism for terrorism.
El-Rahim who was arrested in Tira denied the murder allegations. They had nothing more serious in mind than “a routine burglary” and Nas’ara acted alone, said the accomplice.
Israel National News says the thieves had access to the home because the Lerner’s knew the contractor next door and trusted him, and gave him the keys. Eyal Lerner told Israeli radio: “It was not difficult to realize that we were burglarized, because the television was missing. Our camera also disappeared… We lock the apartment a lot better now.”
With most construction sites in Israel employing large numbers of Arab workers, it’s likely that more people will be locking their apartments better now too.