Following of Jamal Hakrush's appointment as Israel's first Muslim deputy commissioner and in light of the abysmal number of Muslims currently serving as police officers, the Israel Police is seeking to recruit more Muslims to the force.
According to police data from 2015, there were only 431 Muslim police officers out of a total of 28,633, constituting 1.5% of the national force.
This is because a large part of the Arab sector views the police with hostility and refuses to cooperate with them. Indeed, there were no Arab members of Knesset at Hakrush's swearing-in ceremony, and Arab council heads took the opportunity to call for members of the sector to not enlist into the police forces or do national service.
Hakrush was appointed to be the head of a new administrative office that was established to provide better police services in Arab communities. This is Interior Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Chief Police Commissioner Roni Alsheikh's flagship program.
A commission of inquiry that was established in the wake of an incident in October of 2000 when 13 Arab rioters were killed by Israel Police noted that the Arab sector does not consider the police as a legitimate force with which to cooperate.
"The police who deal with the Arab sector need to be re-organized," the council concluded. "Many times, the police are considered a force which neglects to provide service, and is seen by many as hostile."
The police and Ministry of Defense recognize the problem and hope that there will be significant growth in police services in the sector and that trust in the police will grow as well. The plan calls for 1,300 officers to be drafted from the sector, of which they hope several hundred will be Muslim.
"If we're being honest with ourselves, and I mean throughout all of the governments of Israel—from Ben Gurion until this historic day—we can't look at the Arab community in Israel with all of its crime and violence and wash our hands of them. We haven't provided equal policing service to the Arab sector. In regards to the police, we haven't operated with proper equality," Erdan said during Hakrush's ceremony.
Yet, in the Arab sector, this solution remains controversial.
Nayel Zoabi, principal of the Tamra Valley High School and social worker for the Maintenance of Joint and Active Citizenship welcomed the move saying, "This is a great contribution to reducing violence and crime. It will raise the personal security of every Arab citizen."
He continued, "It's great to see young Arabs integrating into public and social positions, into government positions, into the police or other governmental agencies. We need to thank the work of Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan and those who initiated the idea. This indicates the intent to better the lives of Arab citizens."
The mayor of the Arab town of Qalansawe, Abdel Basat Salame, said that he also supports more Muslims going into the police "on the condition that they serve in the cities and towns and won't be exploited for other activities."
The head of the Musawa Center for the Rights of Arabs in Israel, Jafar Farah, said, "The Shin Bet isn't serious and doesn't intend to deal with crime in the Arab sector. Therefore, the police doesn't fulfill its responsibilities to its citizens."
According to him, "The Shin Bet wants the Arabs to beg for law enforcement to work in Arab towns, but the Arab public isn't willing to beg." He pointed out "the game whereby the Shin Bet recruits collaborators to shake down Arab citizens. We all saw the results of what happened to Nashat Melhem."
Farah believes that the police won't be able to recruit even a third of their target number number from the sector and that the initiative will fail. "This is just another chapter in Netanyahu's public relations campaign," he said.
He recommends that the police "change its policies and stop using violence against protesters and detainees. They need to work towards stopping crime in Arab society. That’s what they need to do. But they're doing everything except the right thing. Recruiting police from the Arab community won't solve the problem."