Ohana: Response Given to Citizens at Start of the Riots Was Unsuitable

YERUSHALAYIM -
Israeli police seen on the streets of Lod, where shuls and cars were torched and Jewish shops were damaged when Arab residents rioted in the city, May 12. (Yossi Aloni/Flash90)

​Minister of Public Security Amir Ohana (Likud) ​replied on Wednesday in the Knesset Plenum to a parliamentary question by MK Betzalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) on forming a commission of inquiry to examine the police’s conduct during the recent Arab riots.

Ohana described the actions taken within “Operation Law and Order,” which began at the beginning of the week. Ohana said: “These intensive and powerful actions significantly improved the response provided to the citizens — which I unequivocally agree was unsuitable at the start of the riots — and significantly improved the personal security of the residents of the mixed cities. It has not ended, based on the understanding that even if the flames are not burning with the same scale and intensity, the embers are still glowing, and there is need for a thick blanket — in terms of personnel, equipment, technology, intelligence and also responsiveness by the justice system to remand requests and severe punishments in the cases that come before it — in order to smother the fire and lower the flames. That is one of the goals of Operation Law and Order, in which the police are currently engaged. That is also the goal of the governmental emergency plan that I am currently formulating, and which I hope to present in the next government meeting.

“There is very significant activity — not only now in Operation Law and Order, also beforehand, but all the more so in this operation — because we saw a live demonstration of what we said all the time, that these weapons would not only serve for criminal purposes, but would also serve for nationalist crimes. We saw that some of the Arab citizens of Israel turned these weapons against Jews, against police officers, against civilians.”

In the course of his reply, Ohana expressed disapproval of statements made by Smotrich against Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai, and said that he had criticized the latter’s statement about “serving as a buffer between the quarreling sides.”

Ohana said, “They tried to set five batei knesset on fire in Lod but no one set fire to a mosque; they lynched Jewish citizens and shot Jewish citizens.”

MK Ibtisam Mara’ana (Labor) accused Ohana of incitement, saying that an Arab citizen had been murdered in Lod, to which Ohana replied, “They’re defending themselves, and that’s a good thing.”