Likud MK Avraham Neguise
Likud MK Avraham NeguiseEliran Aharon

Likud MK and chairman of the Knesset’s Aliyah and Absorption Committee Avraham Neguise weighed in on the ongoing controversy regarding comments by Israel’s Chief of Police Roni Alshich relating to crime among Ethiopian Jews in Israel.

On Tuesday, Alshich spoke to the Israeli Bar Association, touching upon the problem of crime in the Arab sector and among immigrants from Ethiopia and their descendants. In attempting to describe his department’s efforts to improve relations between the police and Ethiopian Jews, Alshich said it was “natural” for officers to be more suspicious of Ethiopian immigrants, given the higher crime rates in their communities.

The Police Chief added that he was working to reduce friction and overlook minor offenses to improve relations between the Ethiopian population and the police.

“I am for closing cases where there is friction, and which don't include any serious crimes," Alshich said. "The confidence Israelis of Ethiopian origin have in the police is growing, and I am happy that there is leadership in the community. The goal is to reduce crime, not fill the jails."

By Wednesday, however, Alshich’s comments had stirred a major controversy, with accusations of insensitivity and even racism.

Speaking to Arutz Sheva Wednesday afternoon, MK Neguise, a native of Gondar, Ethiopia, spoke out on the controversy, rejecting claims of racism while emphasizing that Alshich had phrased his comments poorly.

Neguise noted that following the outcry, Alshich had called him to explain his statements.

“The Police Chief called me last night to explain what he had meant and that his comments had been misinterpreted and that he had no intention of offending anyone,” said Neguise.

“I saw a recording of his speech; you can understand the Police Chief’s explanation on a professional level, but he did not need to say what he did. He erred in how he phrased his comments, and I told him he should apologize. There’s no embarrassment in saying ‘I phrased my statement poorly and I apologize to the community and Israeli people’; it won’t hurt him [to say it].”

The MK also pointed out the possible damage Alshich’s comments could have if misinterpreted by officers encountering Ethiopian youths.

“How will a street cop interpret that [statement] while on duty? The Ethiopian community is harmed. I’m worried that after his comments there will be more policing against Ethiopians.”

“It’s a shame that today, when there are efforts to bring people together and strengthen the relationship between the community and the police, there comes a statement like this that breaks the trust and ups [the level] of policing. I call upon the Chief of Police to apologize and end this whole story.”