Photo Credit: Mark Neiman (GPO)
President Rivlin hosts meeting with Chief of Police and Arab mayors

President Rivlin this week hosted at his residence in Jerusalem a meeting of Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh and the heads of Arab municipalities, led by the Chairman of the Arab Regional Council Heads, Mazen Ganim, to discuss cooperation, in light of recent clashes between Israeli Arabs and law enforcement agencies.

The President stressed that the meeting had been planned at the request of many citizens, to discuss the State’s responsibility for the welfare of every citizen. “We asked to meet with those responsible for public safety in order to discuss and consider their abilities, and the need for cooperation,” he said, adding, “I am very sorry that many of the council heads who wished to arrive did not come due to various pressures. It is a shame, because we are destined to live together and we have to find a way to promote this understanding inside all of us.”

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President Rivlin opened the meeting by noting that “at times such as these, when extremist forces are raising their heads, we are reminded how easy it is to destroy, and to inflame the situation on the ground. At such moments we do not have the privilege to be entrenched out of a sense of the justness of this side or the other, we must be wise. We must join hands. We must demonstrate what leadership means.”

“Our shared lives here, Jews and Arabs – this is not in question, it is a fact. Whether we want it or not, whether we will live in peace or in conflict, we will live here together. Recognition of this basic fact should guide our actions and our choices, always,” Rivlin said. “We are meeting during tense times between Arabs and Jews in this country, and in these days of tension and crisis, leadership is put to the test. I must say that after the murderous attack on the Temple Mount, in which Israeli citizens murdered two policemen and hurt all of us, Arabs, Druze and Jews alike, I expected a clear and sharp condemnation from the leaders of the Arab community in Israel. There were just a few who made a clear and outright condemnation, and unfortunately, I was disappointed.”

Police Commissioner Alsheikh began by saying, “I am optimistic, even if there are those who chose to panic. You cannot have a normal life without policing – we all need policing. That’s why I’m optimistic and I’m sure we’ll bring results.”

“I have no doubt that the process we are promoting will lead to results on the ground,” Alsheikh said. “As we always explain to everyone, the police has two hats. The first hat is a hat of enforcement and fighting crime. The second, which is the main function of the police, is to protect. It has to do with the welfare, education and many other fields that the police share in all parts of the country. We are in kindergartens, in schools, with youth and everywhere we can eventually reduce the cycle of delinquency, and strengthen those who abide by the law. That is why we need partnership, and I believe that in the end everyone will be our partners because we come with open arms that want to improve the life and security of the Arab citizen.”

“Much of the violence is directed against Arab society,” the Commissioner noted. “So who does not want to deal with it? Certainly the Arab citizens want to deal with this. We see that the young people vote with their feet and want a normal life. I told the Knesset Interior Committee about a young Muslim, religious, a woman, who came to a police training class, and asked to be photographed with me in order to upload the picture to Facebook, to convey a message to young Arabs that this should be the case. It is part of the sense of security, that there are local policemen walking around in uniform, conveying a message that the police are needed and are there to protect the citizens.”

“In the end we have to open the door to everyone and feel that the police belongs to everyone; the entire society in all its diversity and shades. Every citizen in Israel should feel that the police are there for him. It’s a big challenge but I’m optimistic,” Commissioner Alsheikh said. “Therefore, with this optimism, we will build together the joint team that will work to strengthen obedience to the law, in joint projects that can be done with the authorities, and I have no doubt that together with the mayors who arrived here today, we will continue, and we will succeed.”

Chairman of the Forum of Arab Mayors, Mazen Ganim, thanked the President, saying, “You prove that this house belongs to all of us, Jews and Arabs alike.”

He also thanked the Commissioner for promoting the meeting and joint action, adding, “The Arab community was not born a violent society. The circumstances brought us to this. The Israeli Police proved that it can weed out all the crime families, and I want to say that all the crime families in Jewish communities have flocked to Arab communities.”

“Since 2000, 1,200 Arab residents have been killed with illegal weapons,” Ganim stressed, concluding, “Dear friends, fellow council heads, there is a responsibility on everyone, there are undoubtedly many obstacles and you can help us overcome the obstacles through employment and the economy.”

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