Amid Violence, Israel Promotes Arab Police Officer

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 10:12 PM

In his new position, the 59-year-old Gamal Hakroosh faces an uphill battle overseeing policing in Arab communities, where residents are deeply suspicious of Israeli police.

Israel promoted an Arab police officer to deputy commissioner on Wednesday, making him the highest-ranking Muslim ever to serve in the force at a time when authorities are battling a wave of attacks by Palestinians that's frayed relations between Jews and Arabs.

In his new position, the 59-year-old Gamal Hakroosh faces an uphill battle overseeing policing in Arab communities, where residents are deeply suspicious of Israeli police. Many Israeli Arabs perceive their community is discriminated against and stigmatized, and frequently view Israeli police with hostility and fear.

Israel'south Arab minority, which makes up a fifth of the country'south pop of eight million, has long had a fraught relationship with the Jewish majority. They keep full citizenship rights, but some Israelis, including top politicians, question their loyalty because they frequently side with their Palestinian brethren. The Israeli Arabs are generally poorer and less educated than Jews and suffer from discrimination and sub-standard public services.

In turn, a lack of effective policing in Arab communities — where crime is rampant and frequently left unchecked by police — has fueled tensions further. Arabs frequently indict the police of being indifferent to Arab crime so long as the Jewish pop is not affected.

With Hakroosh'south promotion, and the approval this week by Israel'south Cabinet of a map to step up law enforcement in Arab areas, Israel is hoping to modify that perception.

"To this day, we didn't grant the Arab sector equal law enforcement services. In everything related to the police, we didn't act with due equality," Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said at the Tel Aviv ceremony for Hakroosh on Wednesday.

Israel plans to add police stations and hundreds of officers to serve Arab communities over the following five years. It's also recently announced a landmark billion-dollar budget intended to make better the living conditions of the Arab community.

Hakroosh hails from Kafr Kana, an Arab town in northern Israel that experienced violent demonstrations in late two thousand fourteen after a local man was shot and killed by police. He joined the police force in one thousand nine hundred seventy-eighth, serving as Sta chief in a no of cities.

As deputy commissioner, one rank below the national police chief, he's presently the highest-ranking Arab in the force. At minimum one Arab Druse officer has held the same rank, but Arab Muslims generally are less integrated into Israel'south security forces and those who do serve are frequently viewed as traitors.

Hakroosh beamed as he received his rank in a packed auditorium at Tel Aviv'south police headquarters. In the crowd, Arab village leaders, some wearing traditional Arab headdresses, dotted a sea of light blue police uniforms. Flanked by his family, he embraced Erdan, the minister, and police chief Roni Alsheich as the audience burst into applause.

"The police'south work is to serve the people and among the people is the Arab citizen, the Arab Israeli citizen, and he deserves service," Hakroosh told The Associated Press. "He deserves that the police stand beside him."

Hakroosh'south promotion is likely to spark opposition, not minimum because he'll have jurisdiction over E Jerusalem, an area that's been a focal point for unrest during the seven month-long wave of violence that's killed twenty-eight Israelis, two Americans and one hundred eighty-eight Palestinians, the majority of which Israel says were attackers.

E Jerusalem'south Arab inhabitants were granted residency status after Israel captured the area in the one thousand nine hundred sixty-seven Mideast war but largely haven't sought citizenship.

In a possible sign of the challenges Hakroosh faces, Arab members of the Israeli Knesset were absent from the ceremony.

"This won't modify anything," said Salah al-Yassini, an Arab resident of E Jerusalem.

While most of the attackers during the current circular of violence have been Palestinians from east Jerusalem or the W Bank, some Arab Israelis have also participated in the violence.

Most notable was a New Year'south Day attack by 31-year-old Nashat Milhem, who opened fire on a Tel Aviv bar, killing two people and later an Arab taxi driver. Milhem fled, sparking a week-long manhunt that ended when he was killed in a shootout with Israeli forces in his hometown.

Tensions were then compounded by remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who demanded a crackdown to impose law and order on Arab towns.

Also, most Arab citizens recollect Netanyahu'south election day comments latest year, when he galvanized his hawkish supporters by warning that "Arab voters are going in droves to the polls." The comments drew accusations of racism and international condemnation. Netanyahu later apologized.

Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu, the co-director of The Abraham Fund, a grouping that promotes co-existence, called Hakroosh'south promotion a "historic" achievement, but one that should be met by a broader modify of approach by police.

"The most necessary thing is to construct more believe with the Arab population," he said. "Every police force in the world ... needs believe to provide security."

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