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October 4, 2022 1:44 pm

In Elections Appeal to Israeli Arabs, PM Lapid Pledges to Boost Fight Against Crime

avatar by Algemeiner Staff

Weapons seized by the Israel Police and the IDF in northern Israel, March 24, 2022. Photo: Israel Police

With weeks left before Israel’s next round of elections, Prime Minister Yair Lapid is appealing to the country’s Arab minority by promising to fight a years-long crime wave that has bloodied their communities.

In a video released in the lead up to elections in November, Lapid described “the fight against crime in the Arab sector” as a main priority of his government, which would be intensified after elections. “We will make an effort that has never been made here, to invest in the personal security of the citizens of Israel — with an emphasis on Arab society,” said the premier.

He pledged to “invest the necessary resources” and “bring the best people” to tackle the core issues important to Arab society: “The education of your children; the creation of job opportunities, especially for youths; housing plans; and integration into public services.”

“After years of neglect, Israel’s Arab citizens deserve to have a government that works for them,” said Lapid.

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The appeal comes amid a crime wave affecting Arab Israeli society, which drew national attention last month following the murder of an Arab-Israeli woman and her teenage daughter in the central city of Lod.

A survey released late last month by the Abraham Initiatives, a nonprofit that aims to improve Jewish-Arab relations in Israel, found that an appeal by Lapid to Arab voters could increase their turnout — which is expected to hit record lows — by some 22 percent.

The crime wave has become a flashpoint issue in recent years, driving mass protests in Arab communities. Israel’s Arab minority, which makes up some 21 percent of the population, faces a disproportionate risk of murder compared to Jews, who constitute a 74 percent majority.

Between 2015-2019 in Israel, 56 percent of victims of crimes against the person — which encompasses violations ranging from threats to murder, attempted murder, and murder itself — were Jewish, while 44 percent were not, according to the Knesset Research and Information Center. The status quo appears to have impacted the sense of personal safety of Israeli Arabs, who were more than twice as likely to express a “very great or great” fear of facing violence in their neighborhood in a 2021 survey by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

The Abraham Initiatives tallied 47 fatalities in Arab society in the first half of 2022, the majority men under 40 years old. 52 fatalities were recorded in the same period the previous year, which ultimately ended with 126 Arab Israelis killed for reasons related to crime and violence. This was a continuation of the yearly increase in fatalities in the Arab sector, which saw 96 people killed in 2020, 89 in 2019, and 71 in 2018, according to the group.

Activists have said years of under-policing and neglect contributed to the ascendance of organized crime and proliferation of illegal weapons in Arab communities, while police have blamed a lack of trust and cooperation from the sector.

Last year, the Israeli cabinet approved a multi-year, NIS 30 billion (some $9 billion) plan to tackle disparities in the Arab sector, including education, healthcare, and infrastructure, as well as a second, NIS 2.4 billion (some $700 million) plan specifically to fight crime in Arab society.

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