Root out the racketeering

From the Chief Rabbinate to Hamas, and from the Negev to the Temple Mount, it is time to break the syndicates that undermine Israeli sovereignty and governance.

Published in The Jerusalem Post, August 6, 2021; and Israel Hayom, August 8, 2021. Print-friendly copy

Photo credit: Pixabay

This week, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel declared war on the government’s plan to reorganize the regulation of kosher food in this country. You could hear the Rabbinate Council protesting: ‘Somebody is trying to steal our cheese’ and rob our absolute control of the massive job-providing kashrut supervision system!

Indeed, this won’t be an easy battle for the government to win. Well-ensconced and tenacious monopolies, not mention to underworld rackets, are notoriously hard to displace.

Unfortunately, Israel has many mafias which are eating away at national sovereignty and good government. The rabbinical racket is just one of many, and certainly not the worst.

Far more dangerous are the Israeli Arab gangs and clans that run “protection” cartels in the Galilee and Negev, and who are responsible for grand larceny, and the narcotics and gun distribution networks that are ubiquitous in the Israeli Arab sector.

For years, Israeli Arab community leaders and MKs have begged the Israeli Police to aggressively crush these criminal cartels (whose gun-supply grids fuel widespread domestic violence among Israeli Arabs), but the Police is afraid of confronting these gangs.

Just consider the ongoing series of criminal arsons in the Galilee over the past month, or the continuing theft of agricultural equipment and livestock in the Galilee, or the never-ending theft of arms and equipment from IDF bases in the Negev. (Read the shocking report published this week by the State Comptroller on anarchy in the Negev.)

These are chronic illnesses that have festered for years, which undermine Israeli authority and make life hell for many Jewish and Arab Israelis. Yet there is no national plan for dealing with such lawless mayhem.

Even when there is a comprehensive and munificently funded Israeli national plan for dealing with such problems – such as the multiple Israeli plans to settle Bedouin land claims in the Negev and halt the helter-skelter Bedouin sprawl over massive tracts of land in the south – these plans are scuttled by Arab criminal gangs and the radical Islamist organizations to which they often are connected.

The criminals and the radicals have no interest in change; no desire to improve the quality of life for Israeli Arabs; and no interest in making the Zionist State of Israel a just and safe society.

Alas, no Israeli minister of internal security or police chief has had the guts, the necessary budgets, and the backing of a prime minister for an all-out war against the protection gangs and Islamist criminal-terrorist networks. Israeli government and police officials prefer to continue to try and “manage” the situation; to keep a lid on things without real root-canal treatment.

By the way, many experts say that the broadscale violence that last month hit mixed Arab-Jewish cities like Lod and Acre was driven by Arab gang and Islamist elements, who purposefully inflamed the masses and rallied otherwise peaceful Israeli Arabs for pogrom-style rioting and lynching.

Yoav Sorek, the erudite editor of the important (Hebrew-language) journal Hashiloach, drew attention in his June issue to these deformities of Israeli society and decision-making in a lead article called “Protection: The Collapse.”

Sorek writes that merely managing the threat of mafias and protection networks is “immoral and ruinous” over the long term, even if one understands that short-term tactical calculations mitigate against opening-up too many fronts simultaneously. He worries that Israeli society grew comfortable in the Netanyahu years to “normalcy” – relative calm and almost-constant economic growth (no matter how thin this veneer may be). And as a result, Israelis are not girded for hard struggle, which is what it will take to overcome menacing cartels.

Sorek also surveys the mafia-boss-and-subservient-client relationship that Israel has gotten itself into with Hamas in Gaza. Unless Israel facilitates the monthly transfer of Qatari cash to Hamas, the organization threatens to launch missiles into Israel and/or relaunch its incendiary balloon terror campaign. This is classic racketeering.

Of course, nobody in Israel wants to send IDF ground troops into downtown Gaza City, but are cash payments to Hamas mafioso bosses Yihye Sinwar and Ismail Haniya the correct way to deal with Gaza over the long term? Was the Shalit POW-for-terrorist exchange deal a constructive way to deal with Hamas, or did that also reinforce mafia-boss-and-client relationship?

IN MY MIND, the worst example of Israeli capitulation to gang-land style Arab behavior is the ongoing sad saga of misadministration of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The government and the police always prefer to “maintain public order” on the Mount instead of acting determinedly against Arab assaults on Israel and on Jewish history. This had led Israel to ignore decades of outrageous and provocative Moslem moves on the mount; assaults which are escalating all the time.

Wakf and Islamic movement provocateurs have attacked Jewish visitors to the Mount and Jewish worshipers at the Western Wall below the Mount; have hijacked the pulpits in the mosque on the Mount to preach hatred and violence against Israel; and have purveyed a canard about the Al-Aqsa mosque being under attack from Israel in order to rile up the Palestinian public and broader Islamic world.

The Wakf also has conducted vast and illegal construction projects on the Mount and beneath it, willfully destroying centuries of Jewish archaeological treasures. It allows ISIS, Hamas, and Turkish flags to fly defiantly. The Wakf even has allowed Palestinian terrorists to smuggle machine guns onto the Temple Mount, who then attacked police guarding the gates of the Mount, killing Israeli officers. The terrorists fled into the shrines on the Mount, under Wakf protection.

And of course, Jews have only limited visitation rights on Har HaBayit (the Temple Mount) and are formally forbidden from praying there (– although lately a few Jews quietly have managed to pray on the outskirts of the Mount without police or Wakf interference).

In short, radical Palestinian and Islamic actors have turned the Mount into a base of hostile operations against Israel, instead of protecting it as zone of prayer and peace.

In this matter too, Israel prefers to merely “contain” things and “restore calm.” It chooses to maintain a situation whereby the Moslems exercise exclusive religious and national rights on the Mount; a situation where Islamic aggression has become the new status quo.

Ironically and not-surprisingly, Israel’s restraint in all things related to the Temple Mount (which stems partially from Jordanian sensitivities) has not improved the situation or won any plaudits for Israel from the international community.

Just the opposite is true. In the face of Israeli caution (or might we say hesitancy and even timidity), Israel’s enemies have ratcheted-up their attacks and their propaganda assaults. Even the most cautious, carefully calibrated police actions on the Mount are now immediately termed “flagrant desecration of the holy Al Aqsa Mosque,” with the “holy mosque” now said to encompass the entire Temple Mount plaza and “all its walls.”

The common thread that runs from the Chief Rabbinate to Hamas (without meaning to equate them), and from the Negev to the Temple Mount, is the unhealthy, unsustainable, and sometimes catastrophic balances-of-terror that pertain; cartel-like structures and patterns of behavior that threaten Israeli sovereignty and good government. Will Israel’s new government rise to the challenge of confronting these entrenched syndicates?

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David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker