“I don’t think that, since the creation of the state of Israel, we’ve seen this kind of domestic violence,” Ami Ayalon, the former director of the Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI equivalent), tells me. “We are not far from… not a civil war, but a level of violence that I don’t know if we can control.”
Ultimately, the current violence is the result of the longstanding marginalization of Israel’s Arab minority.
Arabs, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population, have in some ways grown more integrated with their Jewish neighbors in recent years. But at the same time, the Israeli Jewish leadership has grown more right-wing and nakedly racist, with Netanyahu labeling the Arab political parties an “existential threat” in 2019 and subsequently choosing to partner with the Jewish supremacist party Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) in the March 2021 elections.
His government passed a law defining Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people in 2018, implicitly defining Arabs as second-class citizens. The government has largely ignored festering problems in the Arab community, including longstanding discrimination and poverty, leading to the rise of Arab organized crime and a shocking spike in murders.
And Netanyahu’s decision to allow the continued Jewish colonization of the West Bank — territory meant to be part of a future, sovereign Palestinian state — has convinced large numbers of Arabs, many of whom identify as “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” that the state is incapable of seeing them as full and equal citizens.
“If I had to sum it up in one sentence: yes, Netanyahu is completely to blame,” said Yaël Mizrahi-Arnaud, a research fellow at the Forum for Regional Thinking, an Israeli think tank.