Some 300 farmers have been granted licenses to carry firearms, as part of a policy implemented by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan to enable farmers to fight “agricultural terror” – attacks and thefts by Arabs on Israeli farms and herds. Erdan has instructed weapons licensing officials to give priority to requests from farmers, and to process their applications immediately, Yisrael Hayom reported.
Erdan initiated the policy in the wake of an incident in August 2016, in which a truck driver from the moshav of Beit Elazari shot in the air at three individuals who attempted to steal his vehicle. The driver said that he did not hit anyone, but after the incident, rescue officials found a dead body in a field near where the shootings took place. Police have opened an investigation, and believe that the dead man, about 30, was one of the thieves. The case received a great deal of media attention, with pundits and politicians debating the limits of self-defense and the appropriate response to an attempted theft. Agriculture Minster Uri Ariel said that he fully supported the shooter, “who was trying to protect himself and his family. Farmers, especially in areas near large Palestinian populations, suffer from robberies, vandalism and nationalistic attacks. Security forces must increase their activities in order to defend these people. With that, we need to increase ways to prevent the need for individuals to have to defend themselves in this way in the first place.”
Erdan implemented the policy at the beginning of the year, and an average of 30 licenses have been granted each month since then, the report said. The policy is one of several that Erdan has initiated in response to the wave of thefts. The Arab thieves steal produce, animals, equipment and anything else they can get their hands on. In recent months, thieves have vastly improved their methods of stealing, using lookouts and high-tech methods to determine which farms will yield the best “take” with the least amount of risk. Large numbers of Border Guards have recently been deployed to patrol rural roads in the Negev and Galilee, providing extra security for farmers.
A recent Knesset session was dedicated solely to the problem of agricultural terror, weighing the possibility of compensating Israeli farmers for their losses, as victims of terror attacks are compensated. A Knesset report on the incidents shows that fires at farms and orchards, and theft of livestock and cattle, happen on a regular basis, and on a large scale. In recent months, a major fire in a packing house in the Galilee town of Yesod Ham’alah was burned down, causing damage of NIS 10 million. Another attack on Kibbutz Revivim in the south destroyed millions of shekels worth of produce. Farmers said that these attacks took place because they refused to pay “protection” money to Bedouin gangs, who threatened to harm them if they did not pay. According to the report, losses due to these activities amount to as much as NIS 900 million a year. Despite this, few of these crimes are prosecuted.