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Netanyahu vows crackdown on ‘Arab crime’

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced Saturday the murder of two people in Tel Aviv by a shooter suspected of being an Arab Israeli, pledging a crackdown on crime in that community.

A man police identified as Nashaat Melhem opened fire at a pub Friday, killing the two and wounding seven others before fleeing. He remained at large late Saturday, with thousands of police searching for him.

The shooting came amid a wave of Palestinian attacks on Israelis, and while police said there was a “strong possibility that this was a terrorist attack”, Netanyahu did not define it as such.

“There was a despicable murder here yesterday, incomprehensible cruelty”, he said after lighting a candle outside the pub.

The attack was condemned by the council of Arara, the suspect’s hometown, as well as by the head of the Joint List, which groups parliament’s main Arab parties.

“I appreciate the condemnations of the crime from the Arab sector; I must say I expect all Arab members of parliament, without exception, to condemn the murder,” the premier said.

He noted the existence of “enclaves in which there is no law enforcement and in which there is Islamist incitement, rampant crime and illegal weapons that are frequently fired at events such as weddings. This era has ended.”

The premier said he had, along with law enforcement, formulated a plan to “dramatically increase law enforcement in the Arab sector”.

“You can’t say ‘I’m an Israeli in my rights and a Palestinian in my duties’. Whoever wants to be an Israeli has to be one all the way, in rights and duties, and the first duty is to obey the country’s law,” he stressed.

Arab Israelis are those who remained in the Jewish state after its 1948 creation, as well as their descendants. They account for more than 17 percent of the population.

They often complain of discrimination in various fields, including building permits, infrastructure and education.

On Thursday, the government approved a plan worth several billion dollars to improve their economic situation.