Security chiefs form task force to determine Shin Bet assistance in fighting crime

Senior law enforcement and security officials agreed to establish a joint task force that will examine how the Shin Bet security service can assist in the fight against criminal organizations, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir’s office announced Thursday.

Ben Gvir has long pushed for the Shin Bet’s involvement in combating crime, particularly in Arab communities where deadly violence has claimed many lives in recent years. The Shin Bet is generally tasked only with fighting nationalistically-motivated crime and many Arab leaders oppose the agency’s involvement in domestic matters. Haaretz reported Thursday that senior officials in the Shin Bet also disapprove of Ben Gvir’s effort, worrying that it might not even be legal to employ the tools it uses in the fight against Palestinian terror on civilian members of Israel’s Arab communities.

But Ben Gvir and others maintain that the police alone have been unable to clamp down on growing violence throughout Arab communities and that more extreme measures are needed. His far-right Otzma Yehudit party even had a clause included in its coalition agreement with Likud stating that the government will direct the Shin Bet to assist the police in combating crime.

To advance that effort, Ben Gvir met Thursday with Police commissioner Kobi Shabtai and Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar and the sides agreed to form a task force made up of police, Shin Bet and Justice Ministry officials who will examine how the security agency can participate in the effort.

While police managed to quash most Jewish mob leaders decades ago, they haven’t had the same luck in Arab towns where illegal weapons have flooded the streets. In 2022, at least 112 Arab-Israelis lost their lives due to homicides and similar violence, according to the Abraham Initiatives Watchdog. Community leaders blame longstanding neglect by the government and a failure by the police to properly investigate criminal incidents as they do in Jewish towns. Nevertheless, they’ve pushed back against the approach of Ben Gvir, a self-described disciple of the late racist rabbi Meir Kahane with a long history of anti-Arab rhetoric.

The coalition deal with the Likud agreeing to the formation of a division in the Shin Bet security agency dedicated to tackling crime in Arab society was reported last month, drawing fierce criticism from inside Arab society.

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