Published in The Jerusalem Post on March 14, 1999
They want us to feel safe, our politicians. Yes they do. The dangers to Israel out there are real and threatening, and they – all fifty-four political parties running this year — exist solely to protect us, you see.
Binyamin Netanyahu argues that he needs to be re-elected in order to protect us from the dangers of Palestinian statehood, the dangers of a nuclearized Iraq, and so on. Tekuma, Herut and Emunim are teaming up to save us from “further redeployments” (remember those?), and Meretz will stand on guard against the religious fundamentalists. Ehud Barak wants to protect us from overcrowding in the hospitals and unemployment.
Yitzhak Mordechai is going to protect us from, well, voting for someone else. That would be, he is certain, a historic mistake. (Amazing, isn’t it, how someone can lay claim to national leadership on so trite a platform?).
Shas will protect your Sephardic kids from discrimination. The Nature Party will protect the environment, and “Green Leaf” will defend your rights to legalized marijuana. Amir Peretz will safeguard your unionized rights. And the Men’s Rights Party will guard against… whatever.
So why don’t I feel secure? Because nobody is promising me protection from one of the things that frightens me most: rising crime.
Israel is becoming a dangerous place to live. At least one car theft takes place every 12 minutes; a break-in to a home or business every 15 minutes; a traffic accident every 20 minutes; a physical assault every 21 minutes; a sexual assault every five hours and a rape every 12; a traffic fatality every 15 hours; armed robbery at least 4 times daily; and a murder every 56 hours.
This calculates to over half a million criminal cases a year (up three percent in 1998); 43,000 car thefts (only 30 percent of the vehicles ever get recovered); 39,000 other thefts or burglaries; 20,000 reported cases of violence within the family; and some 14,000 drug related offenses.
In Tel Aviv, there were 135 reported cases of rape last year, up by a whopping 35 percent; with overall arrests rising by 23 percent and drug trafficking offenses rising 14 percent. Even worse is the increase in juvenile offenses – up 12 percent in Tel Aviv, for example; up 26 percent among immigrant youth.
On the roads, mayhem reigns: 25,977 traffic accidents with 50,688 injured and over 600 dead last year.
So, what worries you more: the remote possibility of a stray Saddam projectile heading this way — or the danger of roaming gangs picking on your kid in the mall and dragging him into drugs? Black hats — or drunk drivers? National security – or personal security?
Of course there are places far more dangerous, like Detroit or New York. But over there, the politicians and police have declared a real war on crime, with encouraging and impressive results. Murder, mugging and rape counts are down in New York City for a third year in a row, following a policy overhaul and the commitment by Mayor Rudolph Guliani of real resources to the police force and to the courts.
I’m not saying that the Israel Police is lazy. It’s just busy with para-military security duties. 86,935 police work-days were tasked in 1998 to providing security for 68 major events or sensitive holiday periods. President Clinton’s December visit alone cost us 9,940 policemen work-days.
Temple Mount security is another police priority. NIS 57 million is being invested in and around the holy site, including five new police stations in Arab areas. NIS 20 million is being spent on installation of 400 surveillance cameras around the Old City.
Note that the police chief is almost always a veteran of an elite army assault unit, with little experience in civilian matters. He hasn’t worked his way up the ladder from the forensic department, the narcotics squad or the white-collar criminal division.
The Courts are busy prosecuting the real bad guys in our society – Ehud Olmert, Simcha Dinitz, Yaakov Neeman, Rafael Eitan, Avi Yehezkel, David Appel, Eli Landau, etc. – all of whom were acquitted, by the way. Now, they are on to Ariel Sharon … And this week we’ll see just what happens with Arye Deri.
Thus, not too much time or money is left over for the mundane tasks of preventing sexual assault, drug dealing and reckless driving.
So here’s my challenge: Candidates, tell us what you would do, if elected, to combat everyday crime! As part of this election campaign, I want to hear Barak declare: “Money for the police force, instead of money for the hareidim”. This slogan could work for Netanyahu too; just replace “hareidim” with “kibbutzim”.
But alas, our politicians are out there working mainly to protect their own political futures, not to protect me. Fighting crime isn’t high on anybody’s agenda. What a racket.