The proposal to integrate the Shin Bet in the war on crime in the Arab sector sounds obvious on the face of it. This is an outstanding organization, with combat doctrine, technology and people who specialize in prevention, and there is no reason why what works so well against Palestinian terrorism should not work with the same success against criminal activity.
So that's it, no. This proposal is mainly a populist pull from the hip, which is all about removing responsibility from the body that is supposed to deal with the problem - the Israel Police. There is no solution, neither specific nor systemic, and the marginal benefit that will result from it will have other ancillary costs, mainly in the war on terror but also in democracy.
The Shin Bet is a small organization. A kind of elite patrol, designed for the war on terror (alongside counter-espionage and several security missions). It has no fats that can be used for other tasks; Diverting its people or means to the Arab sector will come at the expense of other tasks – from thwarting terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria and preparedness for a campaign in Gaza, to the struggle being waged against Iran across the globe in arms transfers, attacks and cyberattacks.
Illegal weapons seized last week, Photo: Israel Police Spokesperson's Office
Inevitably, it will be more difficult for the Shin Bet to deal with all of these if it is required to concentrate on the murders in Yafia or Kafr Qasim. Since Guardian of the Walls, the organization is much more active in the Arab sector, but it does so for three purposes: first, a growing partnership in dealing with weapons for fear that they will be used not only for criminal purposes but also for nationalist attacks; the second, damaging symbols of governance and rule (an IED on the Health Ministry in Nazareth, shooting at Commissioner Jamal Hakrush); and third, increasing intelligence alertness to the possibility of a future outbreak of widespread violence.
Opening the ISA law and adding tasks to the organization could also be the beginning of a slippery slope. In the first stage, the Shin Bet will be required to deal with crime in the Arab sector, and later on crime in the Jewish sector, and who knows what else. The stronger the organization is vis-à-vis the citizens of the state, the more individual rights will be harmed and democracy will be weakened. This is an inherent axiom, which has a multitude of past and present examples in the world.
In other words, this is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. Instead, the Israeli government is expected to act with maturity and examine the problem once and for all from the root. Start with sources: culture, education, infrastructure. In the Arab sector there is no community center or leisure culture, for example. Young people roam the streets, stay away from school, alienate themselves from the state and are naturally attracted to crime with easy money on its side. This requires systemic therapy. Formalize plans, put money. It will take years, but as the matter is postponed, the solution will move away.
The vehicle allegedly used by the shooters in the village of Yafia is on fire // Use under section 27A of the Copyright Law
Systemic vision required
The next step is to examine what the police lack in fighting crime. The automaton's answer will of course be budgets and standards, but the truth is deeper. First of all, it lacks quality command. Good extras retire wholesale, and there is concern that under them will be appointed not those who are suitable for the job, but those who flatter the minister in charge. Beyond that, of course, there is a need for additional police officers, as well as means, mainly technological, and permits to use them more broadly than is currently possible. All these will enable the police to deal more successfully with the challenge of Arab crime families, as it has done in recent decades with criminal organizations in the Jewish sector.
The judicial system also requires a refresher on the fight against crime: from a significant increase in punishment – from stricter conditions of imprisonment and detention to limiting conditions of release – to specific legislation (for example, punishment for anyone who possesses airsoft weapons). The Israel Prison Service could also toughen the prison conditions for the heads of crime families, who continue to conduct business as usual from prison.
ISA Director Ronen Bar Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
All these require a systemic vision and coordinated action. This is what the previous deputy minister, Major General (retired) Yoav Segalowitz, did. The year in which he led Operation Safe Track was the only one in the past decade in which there was a decline in the number of murders in the Arab sector. It didn't happen by chance: all the bodies worked together, the police, the Shin Bet, the Tax Authority and more, and it yielded quite a few results – from arresting and imprisoning many commanders and soldiers in crime families, through confiscation and freezing of assets and funds, to collecting weapons.
In order for such a move to succeed in the future, continuity and logic are required, two components that are currently missing. Segalovich, who retired, was not replaced by anyone; National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir was offered quite a few projects (including heads of departments who retired from the Shin Bet), and he rejected all of them. The solutions he has raised so far are superficial and indicate mainly a lack of understanding of the problem and ways of dealing with it.
In his first five months in office, Ben-Gvir proved that he was bigger than him in numbers. His conduct is childish and capricious, full of hollow slogans and devoid of gospel. Instead of growing up and working with professionals, the former ISA target surrounded himself with former ISA targets; He and they arouse suspicion and distrust, and have become part of the problem itself. Their remaining in office prevents the advancement of solutions and ensures that the crisis will continue and even intensify, and by implication endangers the national security of us all.
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