Government Officials Blast Arab MKs for Inciting Violence in Bedouin Village

Israeli police members carry the aron of Israeli police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi Hy”d during his levayeh in Yavneh, January 18, 2017. Levi was killed on Wednesday morning in a car-ramming attack in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, in the Southern Israel. (Flash90)

Israeli leaders pointed accusing fingers at a lineup of malefactors in the killing of a policeman during a protest-turned-riot in a Bedouin village in the Negev on Wednesday morning.

Arab MKs, foreign NGOs and the Israeli High Court were all blamed for the violence that involved a car-ramming attack that resulted in the death of Sgt. Erez Levi, Hy”d, 34, and injured several other officers in Umm al-Hiran.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said afterward that this was the second such attack in the past few days and that Israel is fighting a “murderous phenomenon.”

“I ask everyone, especially members of the Knesset, to be responsible, to stop fanning emotions and inciting toward violence.”

“The Bedouin public is part of us; we want to integrate it into Israeli society and not radicalize it and push it away from the center of our life experience,” Netanyahu said.

Israeli policemen stand guard as bulldozers demolish Bedouin dwellings, on Wednesday. (Reuters/Ammar Awad)

Other Israeli officials were more blunt in their statements. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan explicitly blamed Arab MKs for the policeman’s death. “I wish to say – especially now – to Ayman Odeh and to the rest of the Joint List that came [to Umm al-Hiran] this morning to enflame the situation: His blood is on your hands.”

“This is a severe statement, I know. But it is not severe as your acts today. You are a disgrace to the state of Israel.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked also had harsh words for the Arab politicians, while defending state action in demolishing illegal structures in the village, which sparked local anger.

Speaking in an interview broadcast Wednesday evening, Shaked said: “These [attacks] are mainly the result of the incitement of Arab MKs and extreme leftist groups who entered the picture in the last few days.”

She explained that the state had proceeded patiently and fairly. “You should know that the residents were in negotiations with the state for several years despite the court order [that the structure be demolished].” Shaked noted that the evacuated families have been promised full compensation.

Senior Likud MK, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, asserted that “a heavy share of responsibility for the present situation rests on the High Court’s shoulders. This is the same High Court which enabled Zoabi and Ghattas to sit in the Knesset, the same court which allowed the Joint Arab List to compete for election in flagrant violation of the law, the same High Court which instead of ruling that real enforcement should take place on illegal Bedouin construction allowed – time after time – postponements of demolitions while at the same time showing excessive strictness with any Jewish construction. We are paying the price for this today.

“This is an unprecedented case which has not occurred before, regarding the rule of the law in Israel. What is required is to immediately implement all of the demolition orders issued for illegal buildings in Umm Al-Hiran.”

At the levayah of Erez Levi later in the day, where hundreds of mourners attended, Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh added his words to the long list of condolences to the family, along with his own denunciation of the inciters.

“Law enforcement within the Arab sector is a difficult task that requires a great deal of resources. Lately, extremist ideologies have been lumped together and referred to as ISIS. The Arab sector asks for policing and law enforcement while knowing that police intervention comes at a cost. You can’t just enforce internal violence. Some leaders in the sector chose to incite violence instead of admonishing the attack,” Alsheikh continued.

“Murderous acts of terror will not dissuade us. On behalf of the Israel Police and a grateful nation, I salute you. May your memory be a blessing.”