Bedouin ‘Wild West’ Shootings Push Gov’t to Tighten Penalties

A view of the Negev. (Maxim Dinshtein/Flash90)

In the wake of footage that emerged last week showing Bedouin youth firing automatic weapons into the air as they drove down a busy highway, the Ministerial Government Committee on Sunday authorized for a Knesset vote a law that would send perpetrators of such shootings to jail for up to five years. The law, proposed by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, would see the penalty imposed in cases where the shooting was done in public, endangering others.

Until now, brandishing weapons – and often even firing them – was not covered by any law. Cases in which discharging firearms was not illegal included firings in areas where there were no residences or businesses. The maximum penalty for firings that did endanger others was a year in prison. The new law tightens regulations and imposes a longer penalty for a wider variety of shooting scenarios, the ministers said.

The footage, of Bedouin youths firing automatic weapons on a main highway in the Negev as part of a “wedding celebration” shocked Israelis. Police arrested two people in this incident. Pinny Badash, head of the Omer local council, said in a radio interview that “We have simply lost control” of the Bedouin and Arab population. “We hear the gunshots every night and weekend, and we often find stray bullets in Omer fired from the neighboring villages. Just recently one of those bullets was shot into someone’s living room. We have sought help from the police, but to no avail. In any event, the punishment for crimes that these people commit is so light as to be laughable. In one case, a person was arrested 40 times for car theft, and did not serve one day in prison. I do not understand how such a strong country surrenders to this kind of terror.”

In response to the incident, the government quickly approved the bill, authorizing for presentation to the ministers Sunday. The committee is expected to unanimously approve it. Shaked said that “Israel will fight back with an iron fist against criminals, whoever and wherever they are. No one is excepted, including Bedouins who treat our roads in the south like the Wild West. Today we are providing police with the tools to deal with these outlaws. This legislation will restore to Israelis the feeling of confidence and safety that has been compromised.”