PM Naftali Bennett Tours Southern Israel as Part of the Fight against Crime and
PM Naftali Bennett Tours Southern Israel as Part of the Fight against Crime and Haim Tzach/GPO

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett toured southern Israel today (Monday), as part of the plan to fight crime and violence in the Arab sector.

In his meeting with council heads, the Prime Minister made it clear that the Government of Israel under his leadership was committed to solving the problems in the south, mainly dealing with crime and strengthening governance.

Prime Minister Bennett issued the following statement:

"We came here today, to the south of the country, as part of dealing with crime in the Arab sector in the region and throughout the country.

"Next week we will mark half a year since the formation of the government. From the day it was established, we defined the rampaging violence in the Arab sector as a national goal.

"These are not mere words. We are talking about human lives that are being taken and the lost personal security of the residents of the south. We established a designated police division. We reinforced the units. We allocated a very high budget, the likes of which has not been seen in many years. We formulated a national plan together and we are taking action in the field together. The police have carried out several significant operations and we are looking toward the future.

"I came here, together with my fellow ministers, the Justice Minister, the Interior Minister, the Public Security Minister, the minister in the Finance Ministry, the Welfare and Social Affairs Minister – who is also responsible for the Negev, the Deputy Public Security Minister and, of course, the senior police leadership, the Inspector General and the Commander of the Southern District.

"This morning we heard about the needs and difficulties of the southern council heads. Crime in the Arab sector is not the sector's problem. It is the problem of all of us.

"After many years of neglect in which crime reached intolerable proportions, we decided – we are going from defense to offense.

"I was pleased to hear from the southern council heads that the change is already being felt on the ground. For many years the issue was not dealt with and we had militias here that acted like they were in the Wild West. We are putting a stop to this.

"Our message to the residents of the south is: We are here, we are with you. We will not rest. Be'er Sheva and Rahat are no different from Tel Aviv. What cannot be done in the center of the country – cannot be done here.

"We will continue to take action until we have restored security and the sense of security to the residents of the south.

"I would like to thank my fellow ministers, the Israel Police leadership, the police officers and I think that we have proven this this week not only in words, but in actions as well; we have shown that we are giving you full backing. Do the work; restore the security to the south," Bennett concluded.

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev stated: "We have gone from defense to offense. The Israel Police will no longer suffice by reacting to events but will initiate action to apprehend the criminals in their beds. The fight is not only to catch criminals after they have committed their crimes but by going after them economically and in other ways, assisted by the other government ministries. With the approval of the state budget, there will be increased police and Border Police presence throughout the Negev."

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar stated: "We must give the law enforcement authorities effective tools in the campaign against surging crime and this we are doing."

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked stated: "We have set crime in the Arab sector and the restoration of law and order in the Negev as one of the main goals of the government. We have two main goals: On the one hand, to aggressively fight crime, protection, drug hothouses, disturbances on the roads and illegal construction. The second goal is to organize communities and bring the Bedouin dispersion together into orderly communities."

"After years of stalemate, we will finally start building new Jewish communities in the Negev," she said.

Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen stated: "Our job is to understand that the Bedouin are citizens of the State of Israel and we are committed to their well-being and health. We will enter into a dialogue of honor in order to turn these communities around."

Israel Police Inspector General Yaakov Shabtai stated: "First, I would like to thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Security, the ministers who are with us here, and all the heads of the Negev authorities, who strengthen, support and appreciate the work of the Israel Police in the Negev and in general.

"Only last weekend did we see the sharp transition between a criminal incident in Umm al-Fahm, which resulted in police injuries and a determined and swift response, and a terrorist incident in which police managed to neutralize a terrorist who nearly killed a Jewish civilian. In both of these cases, and in dozens of others, our police officers acted with determination and professionalism and sought to engage.

"In recent months, the entire police force, including the Southern District, has been investing considerable efforts and resources in maintaining security. In order to meet all the tasks and challenges that await us in the future, we need a stronger and larger police force, as you all have said," Shabtai said.

The visit was attended by the Public Security Minister, the Justice Minister, the Interior Minister, the Welfare and Social Affairs Minister, the minister in the Finance Ministry, the Deputy Public Security Minister, the Cabinet Secretary, the Public Security Ministry Director General, the Interior Ministry Director General, the Welfare and Social Affairs Ministry Director General, the Israel Police Inspector General, the Border Police Commander, the Israel Police Southern District Commander, the Director of the Police Crime Prevention Division, the Chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities, the Chairman of the Federation of Regional Councils, council heads and other professionals.

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