After police announced on Monday that two local Bedouin are suspected of the stabbing murder of IDF soldier Ron Yitzhak Kokia in Arad in southern Israel, the heads of nearby Bedouin councils arrived Tuesday morning for a meeting at city hall with Arad mayor Nissan Ben Hamo, Israeli media reported.
The meeting was marked by the absence of the Bedouin and Arab MKs of the Joint Arab List.
“We call on all the young people not to resort to violence,” said the mayor of the Bedouin city of Rahat Fayez Abu Sahiban, adding, “These are weeds and we have to uproot them.”
Rahat is one of seven Bedouin townships in the Negev desert.
The Negev Bedouin fear that the murder will seriously harm the fabric of coexistence in the region. One local Bedouin told Walla, “If they really are [the killers], you have to spit on them. It’s a disgrace, who does something like that? They should be thrown in jail for life if they did it.”
A resident of Kuseife, a Bedouin town in southern Israel established as part of a government project to settle Bedouins in permanent settlements, said: “Of course it will hurt the relationship [with our Jewish neighbors], we have a lot of business in Arad, a lot of people who are there, it’s not easy, our entire livelihood is in Arad. It would have been different if the killers were from the territories, but a Bedouin? It will hurt the fabric of life, it was a terrible thing to do.”
Jewish businesses in Arad are reportedly under pressure this week to let go of their Bedouin employees, and fear that their regular customers would go elsewhere for fear of the Bedouin staff.
Arad Mayor Ben Hamo thanked his Bedouin guests for their expressed sentiments. “It strengthens us when you come and condemn this grave event and stand with us,” he said. “This is a terrible and tragic case.”
“I very much appreciate your statement and hope it will seep downwards, as well as upwards, to the leadership in the Knesset…” – a jab at the missing Bedouin MKs at the meeting.
Ben Hamo concluded: “These are testing times, but despite the difficult situation we must see how to progress together and not heat up the area.”