Israeli society is growing more violent, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told an Eilat conference, citing family violence, violence against women, road rage, school violence, cruelty to animals and verbal abuse among the "many ugly faces of violence".
Peretz claimed that Israeli violence had increased because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "After 40 years we're still trapped with no way out, in the complicated situation in the territories.
"The effects of military presence (in the territories) and unending conflicts with the Palestinians, the effects of the restrictions, operations and the defense measures that we have to take, manifest themselves in us years later," he said.
Soldiers' operations in the territories affect their behavior at home, Peretz noted. "Although these operations must be carried out…we can concede amongst ourselves that our continued presence in the territories isn't healthy and does not have a good effect on behavioral norms in the young generation.
"Memories of their experiences later accompany soldiers to university, to the workplace and in their family life. In most cases, the residue remains deep inside, but in some cases, it becomes a component in the increasing violence in Israel."
Peretz said that progress in the peace process could help solve internal violence in Israel. "This is an important reason, in addition to all the existing important reasons, to do everything we can and take advantage of every opportunity to promote peace with our neighbors.
"Just as we need to be brave in the battlefield, we also need to be brave in the field of politics," the defense minister said.
Peretz pointed to the increasing gaps between social classes as an additional reason for the growing violence in Israel. "A society that does not have a reasonable and balanced distribution of wealth – one class with extravagant wealth and, simultaneously, many classes plagued by poverty – will be a society with unrest.
"It's a society with tensions, bitterness and anger, all of which provide a source for violence," he said.
According to Peretz, closing wide social gaps would reduce tension and violence. He censured the phenomenon of privatization of government companies and said that he is trying to advance a pension law and stop an intended cut in welfare benefits for the elderly.