Rehabilitating Law and Order in Israel

(photo credit: RONI OFER/FLASH90)
Avi Melamed ~ Inside The Middle East
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The rampant violence between Jews and Arabs on the streets of Israel is the bitter fruit of a dangerous trend that has developed over time.

This trend is an attitude of contempt, repeal, and disregard for the law. Not just the law in a technical sense, but the law in its most profound sense: law as a guardrail that allows human beings to live in functioning communities.

This trend is the common denominator between the Arab and the Jewish extremists running wild in the streets, ravaging people and property from the North to the South. These extremists share the mindset that “I am the law.” These extremists – on both sides – view themselves as being above the law. They are the ones who define what the law is. And in their definition, their law is the knife, the stone, the Molotov cocktail, and the gun.

The mindset of “I am the law” did not appear out of nowhere. It has been a process that has gradually evolved over the years.

On the Arab side, the writing has been on the wall for a long time. The most explicit expression of disregard for the law is the rampant crime proliferating in Arab communities.

The crime that is increasing in Arab society affects both Arabs and Jews. Drug trafficking, extortion, homicides, robberies, shootings, and violence in Arab society have become daily occurrences. And Israeli governments have failed abysmally in handling those threats.

On the Jewish side, the writing has been on the wall for a long time as well. Phenomena such as the group of hooligans known as “La Familia,” the racist “Lehavah” organization, the “Hilltop Youth” – all are an expression of the mindset of “I am the law.”

The responsibility for this dangerous development lies primarily on the shoulder of the Israeli government. For all intents and purposes, the government has wholly ignored racist hate groups and militants from settlements who burn the olive trees of their Arab neighbors, set fire to mosques, and attack Arabs, IDF soldiers, and law enforcement officers. The government has turned a blind eye toward the rampant crime in Arab communities. And the government has failed to respond to Israeli Arab leaders who have urged the government to address crime in Arab cities, communities, and villages.

During the era of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the mindset of “I am the law” has expanded.

Many argue the reason for this dangerous development is that the judiciary system and law enforcement are weak. Critics of Netanyahu – who himself is facing corruption charges – argue he has been deliberately weakening the judicial system and law enforcement to save his own skin. This argument quickly leads the discussion down the path of a political debate. This path is unnecessary and counterproductive because it minimizes and overshadows the main argument.

Netanyahu has been the Israeli prime minister for the past 12 years. As the head of the system, he bears the absolute responsibility for the expansion of the “I am the law” mindset, whether intentionally or by default and inaction.

Nine million people live in Israel; about seven million Jews and about two million Arabs. The overwhelming majority of Israeli citizens – Jews and Arabs – are law-abiding people who want a life of honor, creativity, hope, and a future for themselves and their children. I belong to this camp. And it is stronger than the camp of hatred and extremism.

These days, the Israel Defense Forces are fighting to protect the State of Israel and its inhabitants – Jews and Arabs alike, in an operation called “The Guardians of the Walls.” One of the goals of the operation is to renew Israel’s deterrence against Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other extreme Palestinian groups in Gaza that are attacking Israel. “Guardians of the Walls” is also an appropriate term for the task facing the moderate camp in Israel. Renew deterrence in law, order, and the guardians of law, and build a future of hope and coexistence.

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The writer is a strategic intelligence analyst and an expert on the current affairs in the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on the Middle East and Israel’s geopolitical environment.

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