Photo Credit:
Minister Erdan (L) and Committee Chairman MK Amsalem. / Courtesy: the Knesset

Ninety percent of illegal firearms in north Israel are obtained from the Army, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) revealed Wednesday during a Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee debate on the police handling of the problem.

“Over the past few years, efforts have been made to trace the sources of the weapons, and to this end the IDF began marking grenades. In 2014-2015, some 2,500 cases involving the possession, manufacturing and carrying of illegal weapons have been opened. This action must be expanded. This is my policy, as it was conveyed to the police commissioner. Extensive operations are carried out almost every week. The Arab public, in its entirety, suffers most from these offenses, as many members of this sector are harmed by illegal weapons. I pledge that by the end of the year we will have much more activity to present,” Minister Erdan told the committee.

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MK Osama Sa’adi (Joint Arab List) called the illegal firearms “a cancer in the body of Arab society” and said, “We constantly warned about this, but there is an outcry only when the weapons are directed, once, at Tel Aviv. As Arab leaders, we are willing to cooperate, and we have said this to Minister Erdan three times. They should not preach morality to us.”

The urgent meeting was held five days after Israeli Arab Nashat Milhem shot two people dead and injured seven others outside the Simta pub on Tel Aviv’s posh Dizengoff Street. Later, according to police, Milhem shot dead an Israeli Arab cab driver whose taxi he had hailed. The shooter is still at large.

During the debate, an argument erupted between Committee Chairman MK David Amsalem (Likud) and MK Talab Abu Arar (Joint Arab List), who said, “We begged the police, but Israel Police is helpless. You give us autonomy when it comes to issues that undermine our existence.”

Amsalem responded by saying that “this discussion is not Arabs against Jews. This is a real problem.”

Abu Arar then said, “Some four or five years ago there was a brawl and Arab leaders were detained. I was told that I was arrested for failing to prevent a crime. None of the internal security ministers throughout the generations have ever prevented a crime. And neither has the police commissioner. You need our assistance with your police?”

To which Amsalem responded, “What do you mean ‘your police?’ You are a citizen. Why do you say ‘your’? [Israel] Police is yours just as it is mine.”

Turning to Minister Erdan, Abu Arar said, “The Arab homes are filled with weapons. Please start collecting them, and not only through improper means.”

“What are improper means to collect weapons?” interjected MK Yoav Kisch (Likud). “Are you suggesting that [police officers] knock on the door and ask if they may please collect the weapons? Or place an announcement at the post office?”

MK Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid) said, “Compared with the rest of the country, there is less police presence in Arab villages. We should embrace the willingness of the Arab leadership to cooperate.”

MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) told the meeting that “the history of the relations between the police and the Arab population is filled with suspicion and prejudice… Police view the Arab as an enemy, and we view the police as a hostile entity, and this affects everything. In the 1970s and ’80s there was much less police presence and there were no weapons. How is it that suddenly police stations are popping up in the villages and the number of weapons is increasing?”

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