Yoav Segalovitz

Netanyahu, this crime wave is on you

Murders, gang violence and domestic terror were going down – and then this blustering, incompetent government came along
The scene where a man was shot dead near to Qalansawe, May 3, 2023. (Israel Police)
The scene where a man was shot dead near to Qalansawe, May 3, 2023. (Israel Police)

The last few months have seen an unrelenting march of lawlessness among those who feel that they can take the life of anyone who crosses their path. Lackluster police enforcement, guns galore, and the feeling that whatever trust the public previously had in the justice system has now been lost.

This means that the gains achieved during the last attempt at solving the problem of rampant gun crime, gangland warfare, and the scourge of domestic violence have evaporated for the foreseeable future.

As a member of the previous government and even as an MK from the opposition, I lobbied for the opportunity to draw on and put into effect the lessons learned from my experience at Lahav 433, the special national crime and anti-corruption unit of the Israel Police force.

I initiated and led the government operation “Safe Route” to fight organized crime and violence in the Arab community, which mobilized all of the enforcement authorities and government agencies to work together to achieve that single goal.

It is imperative to understand that this is not a political issue but rather an issue that has a direct and cumulative effect on each and every one of us as a society. The current level of violence and organized crime can not be remedied with a night-time raid or a series of bombastic TikTok declarations from this self-described “full-right government.”

The small but appreciable dent in the violent crime statistics, which showed a clear downward trend during the months preceding the last election, meant that we had made a significant step towards attaining some semblance of order in communities where murders and organized crime wreaked havoc.

Moreover, after the steady increase in the number of murders from 2014, by the end of 2022 when we had worked on the project for just a short period of time we saw a marked decrease of 16%, indicating a discernible downward shift.

Fancy cars, tax evasion

As Deputy Minister for Public Security, and as the person in charge of the issue of crime and violence in Arab communities, I worked closely with the justice, welfare and finance ministries and in cooperation with the defense establishment to set up a cross-board nonpartisan task force to identify how we could hit organized crime precisely where it hurt most, and work to reduce domestic violence while providing a safety net for its victims.

We met regularly to share ideas and strategies and to discuss successes and failures with a view to continuing and expanding our cooperation. Most importantly, I visited almost every town and local authority where citizens were suffering from extreme violence. I sat and listened to their mayors and officials, I listened to their problems. I wanted to hear and understand their distress.

We forged a robust framework of trust and understanding, and together we built a network of professionals who knew what to expect and could work together in a creative and efficient manner.

We confiscated the crime syndicates’ fancy cars, slapped them with enormous tax evasion fines and arrested them, and ultimately made them understand that we had them in our sights. Violent gang crime went down and the number of murders also decreased. At the same time, the cross-ministerial task force worked to provide education and support to prevent domestic violence, working with faith leaders, welfare offices, and other stakeholders.

This slowly but surely forged an atmosphere of trust, so that those who tipped us off regarding abuse or criminal acts by citizens could be confident they would not be vilified by their community or themselves become the victim of a revenge attack.

However, just five months into the new government, we have a new and inexperienced minister with negligible management skills. There is no one whose designated responsibility is to maintain the fragile and hardwon ties between our diverse communities and the authorities, and the whole country is sadly a witness to the dire results.

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir attends a Border Police ceremony in Latrun on May 2, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

The numbers speak for themselves: in just four months, since the incumbent government came into power, its predecessor’s success in reducing domestic violence and murders has been wiped out. There is a threefold rise in deaths and victims of violent crimes for the equivalent period of time. Rampant lawlessness, little or no accountability, domestic terror and the complete collapse of trust in the judicial system, are the devastating results of soap-box politics.

No meetings, no follow-up, no new plans

Despite raucous slogans, nothing has actually been done. The framework is still in place; all that needs to be done is to take up where we left off.

Unfortunately, the almost juvenile wish to erase anything that the previous government achieved, just to maintain a facade of blustering self-importance while pandering to the whims of a minority has resulted in the collapse of a viable and effective system.

There has been no meeting of the relevant authorities who were working in close and active collaboration with the Ministry of Public Security prior to the last elections. There has been no follow-up on strategies and no new plans introduced. No action at all. Just a constant demand for money and power.

The strategies that had succeeded in closing in on organized crime, educating against domestic violence, and most importantly creating a strong fabric of trust have been ignored, shelved, or just dumped.

The extraordinary and frankly frightening numbers make it clear that the task is too big for this minister, in fact, too big for any one minister. There must be a designated professional with proven organizational and professional skills to run this project effectively. Instead, there has been nothing. The results are there for all to see.

No autonomous national guard will solve the problem, no booming voice or shaken fist will deter a gunman intent on revenge and no blustering inexperienced declaration just to garner ‘likes’ and ‘thumbs ups’ will create an atmosphere of deterrence.

Police at the scene of a fatal shooting believed tied to the criminal underworld in Rishon Lezion, April 24, 2023. (Israel Police)

Hit them hard in their pocket, remove their trappings of wealth and power, arrest and electronically tag domestic abusers, and most importantly use the resources at your disposal as a minister to create a circle of trust by maintaining the holistic all-encompassing network of resources to coordinate and collaborate, to talk to the people who are suffering, to listen to them, and then act.

We are fast approaching the number of daily murders usually associated with the South American cartels of Columbia. This is completely unacceptable, but it is also completely resolvable.

It is the responsibility of the prime minister to ensure the safety of all of Israel’s citizens, even those who did not vote for him. Benjamin Netanyahu, you took Itamar Ben Gvir into the very heart of your government, made him a minister and it is obvious to all that this is a colossal failure.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, it is time to act. The safety of us all is in your hands, the ball is in your court, and you have dropped it.

About the Author
Yoav Segalovitz is a Member of Knesset in the Yesh Atid party and former deputy minister of public security.