TEL AVIV – Israel’s government and police appear helpless amid the unprecedented wave of criminal violence among Israel’s 21% Arab minority, which has resulted in a record 158 murders since the beginning of January. At the current rate, that number threatens to rise to 250 for the year, more than double the 111 murders recorded in 2022.
The incessant killings and the inability of the police to quell the violence have prompted calls from politicians and others to bring in the Shin Bet, Israel's domestic security agency, which has a proven track record in dealing with terrorism committed by Palestinians, its main remit by law. The agency is largely excluded from handling criminal matters and opposes being roped into the current fray.
"The introduction of the Shin Bet to deal with criminal matters will turn Israel into a different kind of country," Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar said at the special meeting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chaired earlier this week. “We need to strengthen the police and deal with it like a democratic state handles similar incidents."
Proponents of involving the Shin Bet argue that by law, the agency is also in charge of protecting Israeli democracy, which is being undermined by this wave of uncontrolled crime, turning the problem from a tactical police matter into a strategic issue of national importance.