NEWS

Former Israeli Minister Says Government Must Take Fight to Organized Crime

By Matthew Harwood

There's another war on terrorism going on inside Israel, argues one of the country's former deputy defense ministers, but this battle is between law enforcement and organized crime.

Ephraim Sneh, twice appointed the deputy defense minister of Israel and a former Labor member of Knesset (MK), wrote on The Moderate Voice blog  that Israel must recommit itself to fighting organized crime after several high-profile attacks against elected officials.

This week, just one day apart, two attacks were made against elected officials. A grenade was hurled at the house of Kiryat Ekron Council Chairman, Arik Hadad. A day later an explosive device was thrown at the house of Beit Jan Council Chairman, Dayan Kablan. Three weeks ago a grenade was thrown at the house of Kiryat-Yam’s mayor, Shmuel Sisso. Two weeks ago the police discovered a conspiracy to murder Bat-Yam Mayor Shlomi Lahiani.

On Sunday, Sneh's own car was set on fire. He told the Jerusalem Post he received a phone call that morning to go down the street and move his car because a car was on fire. It was his.

During a blogging stint for the Jerusalem Post in November, Sneh wrote, "Israel has several crime families; they are, for all intents and purposes, terrorist organizations."

In May 2008, Sneh broke away from the Labor Party to form the Israel Strong Party. Fighting crime is a significant plank in his party's platform.

"Had the Hamas ever likewise tried to attack Israeli elected officials, we presumably would have launched a major military offensive against it," Sneh wrote on The Moderate Voice. "Yet when it is the crime families the attitude is different. The crime families and the other assorted offenders will not be deterred if there is no adequate response to them."

To fight organized crime, Sneh advocates six "components:"

• Stiffening penalties for serious crimes.

• Emergency legislation to give more effective tools to fight organized crime.

• Establishing a system to protect law officials, government and tax workers.

• Economic measures against the crime families.

• A special operation to fight the protection rackets.

• Bolstering the police with resources and manpower. Rehabilitation and strengthening of the status of the policeman and the prestige of service.

According to an Associated Press report from November, "[Israel's] mob wars have killed dozens of gangsters and at least eight bystanders in the last three years, and exposed law enforcement officers in scandalous complicity."

For more on Israeli organized crime, visit Ha'aretz's page devoted to the topic.

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