Middle East

Israel promotes Arab police officer to senior rank

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan (left) and Israel Police Chief Roni Alsheikh (right) change the epaulets of newly-named Israeli police Deputy Commissioner Jamal Hakrush (centre), during a ceremony in Tel Aviv (13 April 2016) Image copyright AP
Image caption Jamal Hakrush was formally appointed into his new position on Wednesday

An Arab police officer has been promoted by Israel to the highest rank ever attained by a Muslim in the force.

Jamal Hakrush starts his job as deputy commissioner after months of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

He will oversee policing in Arab communities where there is a longstanding distrust of the police.

A fifth of Israel's population is Arab and they often complain that areas in which they live are not so well policed and have poorer public services.

Their grievances have been supported by Human Rights Watch which in recent years has published several reports highlighting the discrimination which it is argued the Arab population faces.

Illegal weapons

Deputy Commissioner Hakrush, from the Galilee village of Kafr Kanna, will be in charge of a newly-created police division established to improve policing in Arab communities, The Times of Israel reported.

Deputy Commissioner Hakrush was formally appointed into his new position on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by Police Commissioner Roni Alsheich. One of his main responsibilities will be to stop illegal weapons falling into the hands of the Arab community.

Mr Alsheich also wants to reduce domestic violence, murder rates and other crimes in the Arab sector.

He and the government wants to recruit 1,300 new officers and construct several new stations in Arab population centres.

Israeli Arabs

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A protest in Tel Aviv against the demolition of Arab homes
  • Arab citizens of Israel, also known as Israeli Arabs, are descendants of the 160,000 Palestinians who remained after the State of Israel was created in 1948
  • They make up about 20% the Israeli population - 1.72 million people in 2014
  • About 80% of Israeli Arabs are Muslim; the rest are divided, roughly equally, between Christians and Druze
  • The majority of Israeli Arabs identify closely with Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip
  • The Israeli government says Israeli Arabs are citizens with equal rights, but they often complain that they are second-class citizens
  • The US state department says they face "institutional and societal discrimination"
  • 53% of Arab families were living below the poverty line in 2014, compared with 14% of Jewish families, according to Israel's National Insurance Institute