If Arabs and the Israeli Police don’t communicate effectively, it’s certainly not due to Israel not trying. Recently, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted a meeting between Israeli Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh and Arab local leadership to discuss cooperation between the Police and Arabs and “to examine ways to advance the common issues and concerns,” according to a press release from Rivlin’s office.
However, the number of Arab leaders who attended fell short of Rivlin’s hopes. “I am very sorry that many of the council heads who wished to arrive did not come due to various pressures,” said Rivlin. “It is a shame, because we are destined to live together and we have to find a way to promote this understanding inside all of us.”
The meeting comes against the backdrop of tensions between Israel and the broader Arab community following a terror shooting committed by Arabs in the Temple Mount area that killed two Israeli policemen. In response, Israel set up metal detectors at the main entrance to the Temple Mount complex, but later removed them after outraged Arabs protested and the greater Arab world turned it into an international incident. And much as the recent police meeting was under-attended by Arab leaders, so too were condemnations of violence lacking from Arab leadership, lamented Rivlin.
“I must say that after the murderous attack on the Temple Mount, in which Israeli citizens murdered two policemen and hurt all of us, Arabs, Druze and Jews alike, I expected a clear and sharp condemnation from the leaders of the Arab community in Israel,” said Rivlin. “There were just a few who made a clear and outright condemnation, and unfortunately, I was disappointed.”
However, despite all the tense background, Rivlin and the Israeli police were joined by Arab leadership at the recent meeting, and Chairman of the Arab Regional Council Heads Mazen Ganim expressed his appreciation for the dialogue. “I would like to thank you for all your endeavors. You prove that this house belongs to all of us, Jews and Arabs,” he was quoted in the press release as saying.
Ganim noted that since the year 2000, illegal weapons have killed 1,200 Arab residents. “There is a responsibility on everyone, there are undoubtedly many obstacles and you can help us overcome the obstacles through employment and the economy,” said Ganim.
Today there are many Arabs who are Israeli citizens, and as citizens they have rights and privileges including the right to vote and be elected to the national Israeli parliament, or Knesset. Israel also has a responsibility to defend law-abiding citizens as well, Arab or Jew—something highlighted by Police Commissioner Alsheikh.
He noted that while the Police need to fight crime, they are also there to protect citizens. “We need partnership, and I believe that in the end everyone will be our partners because we come with open arms that want to improve the life and security of the Arab citizen,” the press statement quoted him as saying.
He then pointed to an example of the potential for better relations in telling the story of a young religious Arab woman who attended a police training class and asked to have a photograph with Commissioner Alsheikh so she could upload the photo to Facebook, “to convey a message to young Arabs that this should be the case. It is part of the sense of security, that there are local policemen walking around in uniform, conveying a message that the police are needed and are there to protect the citizens.”
Alsheikh emphasized the police support for all citizens, whether Arab or Jew. “In the end we have to open the door to everyone and feel that the police belongs to everyone; the entire society in all its diversity and shades,” he said. “Every citizen in Israel should feel that the police are there for him. It’s a big challenge but I’m optimistic.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 7, 2017)