Daily Israel Report

Aharonovich on Hevron: We're Not Frightened by Threats

In first-ever press conference with Arab media, Aharonovich says Israel 'is not afraid of anything,' speaks of efforts to recruit Arab cops.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/25/2010, 7:52 PM / Last Update: 2/25/2010, 8:41 PM

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Interior Minister Yitzchak Aharonovich responded Thursday to the decision to include the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Cave of Machpelah) in a list of national heritage sites. Aharonovich dismissed threats from terrorist groups following the decision, saying “We aren't afraid of anything.”

"Whoever is threatening us – they can keep threatening. I can tell you as a government minister, we have enough strength that those who are threatening us can do nothing but threaten.” The minister added that he supported Netanyahu's decision regarding the Tomb, “and I still support it.”

Aharonovich's statements were made in his first-ever press conference with Arab journalists, both foreign and Israeli. A source close to the minister explained that the conference was held in order to fight a trend of disinformation in the Arab media. “There is a vacuum in the Arab media that is filled by political interest groups that consistently give inaccurate information in order to serve their own interests,” he said.

Aharonovich, who oversees the Israel Police, also spoke of his efforts to recruit more Arab police officers. The police force and Prison Services currently employ thousands of non-Jewish officers, but most hail from the Druze sector and not the much larger Arab Muslim sector.

In order to bring Arab officers into the force, the government has funded a preparatory program to help more Arabs pass the test to join police training, he said. The program is already running, and currently has 40 students.

Aharonovich said he is also working with Arab community leaders to help increase the number of Arab policemen.

On Wednesday, the Knesset discussed data gathered in 2009 which revealed that crime had risen by 8.4 percent the Arab sector, while falling in the rest of the country, and that 60% of all murders took place in the Arab sector even though the Arabs are only 22% of the population. Knesset members called on police to do more to fight crime in Arab communities.