For the first time in Israel's history, an Arab citizen has entered witness protection, following the take down of a major network of drug and illegal arms dealers with mass arrests Monday.
The man, code named "Leon" because of his physical similarity to French actor Jean Reno, who played the eponymous character in a 1994 film, has spent a total of 22 years in prison on drug-related offenses.
He agreed to cross the line and work with the police to bring about the arrest of some 60 gang leaders, drug and weapons dealers and other hardened criminals.
According to the police, Leon was a law enforcement unit's dream. He grew up among drug dealers and had easy access to the most senior of their ranks.
Chief of undercover police agents at Lod District, Sup. Eyal Ankonina was wary when he was told he could enlist an agent from inside the crime organization.
"We are selective in the agents we choose. We want to know what we can expect to get from them. Not every drug or weapons bust is worth using an undercover agent," he said.
Leon was put to the test after he was told the police were considering using him. They followed him to see whether he was serious and then tasked him with procuring an explosive device.
He immediately placed a call to one of the top arms dealers in the center of the country and set up a meeting at a local hospital.
Police officers dressed as medical teams were waiting on site. Leon handed over NIS 30,000 and was told where the device could be found.
Having passed the test, Leon signed on as a police agent with an agreement in hand that he could enter the witness protection program as soon as his job was done.
"Just keep your end of the bargain," he told his handlers. "I don't want to look over my shoulder any more."
Leon began working quickly and was given protection in the guise of a "driver" named Max, after concerns that he was going into places the officers could not enter and that he would be on his own.
His targets were never any the wiser and Leon and Max traveled the country, amassing evidence that would later be used in criminal prosecutions.
On another occasion, Leon was again instructed to purchase an explosive device. A meeting with the seller was arranged outside a pizza parlor in Lod, but when the deal was done he realized the device was primed and ready to explode at the push of a button.
"We saw the color drain from his face," his police handler recalls.
The police were nervous - not wanting to blow their agent's cover but worried that civilians could be hurt if the bomb went off.
Leon calmly picked up the package and walked away with it and put it down in a secluded area.
In the meantime, the police shut down cell phone reception in the area to make sure the device could not be triggered remotely.
The bomb was defused by police sappers and the danger passed.
"I saw kids around the pizza parlor," Leon told his handlers. "I thought of my own kids and did not want anyone to get hurt."
The criminal underworld has been shaken at the discovery of Leon's cooperation with the police.
"If the crime bosses let an informant get that close, they should be in a different business," a police source said.