Photo Credit: Tomer Neuberg / Flash 90
MK Itamar Ben Gvir at the scene of the terror attack on Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv on April 9, 2022.

Otzma Yehudit party chair and Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir says he can “solve the problems” in Umm al Fahm and Rahat – two major Arab Israeli cities where crime statistics are skyrocketing.

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In an interview with the Arabic-language side of i24TV, Ben Gvir was accused by the journalist of representing a “Kahanist movement that aims to expel Arabs and Palestinians and eliminate the rights of Arabs in Israel.”

But the MK denied hating Arabs.

“You are wrong in everything you just said. I do not sit in a movement that wants to expel Arabs. I do not hate Arabs – on the contrary, I think that if I reach a place of influence, the majority of Arabs in the State of Israel will be much better off than they are now,” Ben Gvir said.

“I think that if we reach a position of influence, I can solve the problems in Umm al-Fahm and Rahat,” he said.

Ben Gvir, who is considered a “firebrand” by centrists and leftists in Israel, visited Kafr Kasim with Likud MK May Golan in October 2021, after Israeli police were beaten and bloodied by private security guards working for the municipality.

“We came here to give a warm embrace to the police and to say that they must not be abandoned,” he told reporters upon his arrival there.

“The police need to have free rein to deal with criminals and terrorists.”

There are several Israeli Arab crime families in Israel who are involved in extortion, drug and weapons trafficking, fraud and money laundering, often together with Jewish crime families.

Arab citizens comprise approximately 20 percent of the Israeli population, but are involved in 93 percent of shooting incidents, 64 percent of murders, 61 percent of arson incidents, 56 percent of weapons offenses and 47 percent of robberies, according to Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

From the beginning of 2021 until the end of October, more than 100 Arab citizens of Israel were murdered, compared to 113 in all of 2020, 100 in 2019, 81 in 2018, 77 in 2017, 66 in 2016, and 75 in 2015.

In 2020, as in previous years, the police reported that only 20 percent of the murder incidents were solved and 56 percent of those imprisoned for criminal offenses in Israel Prison Service facilities were not Jewish.

The Arab population is plagued by organized crime, gang crime and violence in the public sphere – each stemmed by different causes and characteristics.

According to a survey of 718 respondents submitted to a Knesset committee in June 2020, more than 60 percent of Arab Israelis do not feel safe in their hometowns.

The third annual survey conducted by the Abraham Initiatives organization, presented to the Special Committee for Eradicating Crime in the Arab Sector, revealed that just 17.4 percent of Arab Israelis trust the Israel Police.

Moreover, 21.9 percent of the population reported that they or their family members were beaten, stabbed, or shot within the past year. Forty-two percent were threated by violence in their communities.

According to a report by the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research, the main causes of violence in Arab society include inadequate police presence in Arab communities, poverty, unemployment, changes in the role of the family in Arab society, fewer government institutions in Arab communities, among other causes.

“There are many, many Arabs who do not hate the State of Israel,” Ben Gvir told the Arabic-language i24TV.

“I say – remember – if we reach a position of influence, it will be good. I want there to be quiet in the streets of Umm al-Fahm.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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