Israel
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    Profile

    Israel

    Capital

    Jerusalem

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 394,652.21 million

    Income group

    High income

    Population

    9,054,000

    Area

    22,070 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    4.42

    Criminality score

    124th of 193 countries

    36th of 46 countries in Asia

    13th of 14 countries in Western Asia

    Criminal market

    4.20

    Human trafficking

    5.50

    Human smuggling

    2.50

    Arms trafficking

    5.50

    Flora crimes

    1.50

    Fauna crimes

    2.00

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    5.50

    Heroin trade

    3.00

    Cocaine trade

    4.50

    Cannabis trade

    6.50

    Synthetic drug trade

    5.50

    Criminal actors

    4.63

    Mafia-style groups

    5.50

    Criminal networks

    4.00

    State-embedded actors

    5.00

    Foreign actors

    4.00

    6.00

    Resilience score

    38th of 193 countries

    4th of 46 countries in Asia

    1st of 14 countries in Western Asia

    Political leadership and governance

    6.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    5.00

    International cooperation

    6.00

    National policies and laws

    7.00

    Judicial system and detention

    5.00

    Law enforcement

    5.50

    Territorial integrity

    3.50

    Anti-money laundering

    7.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    7.00

    Victim and witness support

    6.00

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    6.00 4.63 4.20 6.00 4.63 4.20

    6.00

    Resilience score

    38th of 193 countries

    4th of 46 countries in Asia

    1st of 14 countries in Western Asia

    Political leadership and governance

    6.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    5.00

    International cooperation

    6.00

    National policies and laws

    7.00

    Judicial system and detention

    5.00

    Law enforcement

    5.50

    Territorial integrity

    3.50

    Anti-money laundering

    7.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    7.00

    Victim and witness support

    6.00

    Prevention

    6.00

    Non-state actors

    8.00

    Analysis

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    People

    Israel is predominately a destination market for forced labour and sexual exploitation. Arguably, migrants who come to seek work in the country are vulnerable to exploitation, as are refugees and asylum seekers. Women who willingly travel to Israel to work in prostitution may also end up in exploitive situations. In addition to sexual and labour exploitation, victims in Israel may be trafficked for sham marriages, forced begging or for child bearing. Victims of forced labour and sexual exploitation come mostly from Southern and South-eastern Asia, the Palestinian territories and the former Soviet Union. Most refugees and asylum seekers are Eritrean or Sudanese. The actors involved in human trafficking range in their degree of organization, but given the nature and mechanism of forced prostitution in particular, it is very likely that some criminal networks operating in Israel have ties to criminal networks in victims’ countries of origin.

    Due to strained relations with neighbouring countries and the fact that Jordan is not along major human- smuggling routes, the only route through which human smuggling occurs is the Israeli border with Egypt. The majority of irregular migrants in Israel used to come from Eritrea, Sudan, Ghana and Nigeria, but human-smuggling flows, unlike flows of other illicit goods moving through, have dissipated with the completion of the southern border fence along the Egypt–Israel border in 2013.

    Trade

    Given the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine, a lot of illegal weapons have as their final destination either Israel or the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Trafficking flows abound, but often weapons are smuggled from Lebanon and Jordan into Israel, from the West Bank into Israel, or from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank through Israel. Israeli authorities have also thwarted multiple attempts to smuggle military gear and weapons into the Gaza Strip via sea routes. Smugglers vary from individuals to small networks. In addition, Israel is also a firearms manufacturer and a major small-arms exporter. The country has allegedly been supplying rogue regimes as well as militias with weapons in breach of embargoes.

    Environment

    There is no evidence to suggest a flora-related crimes market exists in Israel. Similarly, very few reports of fauna crimes have been recorded, which suggests the criminal market is small. There are, however, allegations of involvement in illegal procuring, selling and exploitation of other countries’ natural resources. Accusations mainly stem from the exploitation of natural resources in the Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights, as well as the procurement of African rough diamonds. Reportedly, the diamond trade is one of the biggest markets in Israel, accounting for a significant portion of the country’s national gross income. Rough diamonds are sourced from South Africa, Sierra Leone, Angola, Congo, Liberia and Ivory Coast, as well as Russia and Canada. Reports claim Israel has made deals with militant groups in Africa that source blood diamonds in return for weapons.

    Drugs

    Although heroin use is less common than other drugs in Israel, it is on the rise, especially in big cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Both Israeli nationals and foreign actors are involved in trafficking heroin into or through Israel. The level of organization of criminal structures engaged in the trade varies, but information suggests domestic mafia-style groups have a stake as well. Heroin, like cocaine, enters Israel mainly from Jordan, and is then either distributed in the country or trafficked into Egypt or Saudi Arabia. Cocaine, however, may also be smuggled to Israel straight from Latin America along sea routes. In terms of criminal actors involved, there are indications that criminal networks with ties to foreign groups traffic cocaine into Israel. It has also been noted that Israel is becoming a major cocaine-trafficking hub because of its strategic location at the crossroads between several drug-trafficking corridors. Likely, as a consequence of that, demand for cocaine among ‘white-collar’ Israelis is increasing, as is the social acceptance of cocaine use.

    Cannabis is the most prevalent illicit drug in Israel. Recreational use of marijuana was decriminalized in 2017, with hundreds of cannabis farms subsequently applying for a licence to grow marijuana, making Israel a large legal exporter of medical cannabis and a major destination market. Nevertheless, Israel remains a transit and destination country for the illegal cannabis trade as well. Allegedly, the smuggling channel – primarily for marijuana and hashish – crosses the Israel-Jordan border and even goes though Israel. Synthetic drugs are also very prevalent in Israel, especially LSD and Ecstasy. Synthetic drugs are trafficked into the country along the same routes used to smuggle cocaine, heroin and cannabis. In addition, however, synthetic drugs are smuggled into the country by air.

    Criminal Actors

    Mafia-style groups are the most prominent criminal actor type in Israel, with different entities having various levels of organization, membership and field of operations – prostitution, extortion, protection, drug dealing, gambling, investment fraud, arms trafficking, illegal quarrying and loan sharing. Since leadership usually depends on family ties, Israeli mafia-style organizations have a well-known boss and, in most cases, defined successor. Israeli mafia-style groups operate in certain territories across the country – northern and southern Tel Aviv, the northern parts of the country and in Arab communities, and claim sole control over turf, but there is no evidence that authorities cannot access these territories. There is also no information to suggest mafia groups exert control over prisons, but there are reports of inmates belonging to criminal groups terrorizing other inmates and even guards. Israeli mafia groups have easy access to weapons and are very violent, having a long history of clashes and wars with one another. Clashes have at times resulted in members defecting from a given structure to form a new organization. Criminal networks also exist in Israel. These are made up of smaller groups that have no leadership or clear structure. Reportedly, the latter run nightclubs where victims are sexually exploited. Other criminal networks are involved in drugs and arms trafficking.

    State actors are not generally involved in organized crime on a wide scale. There have, however, been reports of state actors controlling, engaging in or facilitating criminal markets, most notably cocaine smuggling, investment scams and exploitation of Palestinian natural resources along with the blood diamond trade. Some immigrants in Israel have reportedly resorted to prostitution or selling drugs, but there is no evidence they control any criminal market.

    Leadership and governance

    As Arab community leaders express concerns over the Israeli police’s ability to counter organized crime in their communities, little appears to have been done in respect of countering it. Domestic organized crime does not feature on the political agenda, yet international observers note that it remains a serious concern to the country. Conversely, Israel has made its plans to fight Hezbollah’s organized crime activities in Latin America a top priority. Moreover, then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was indicted in 2019, standing accused of bribery, fraud and abuse of power. Thus, the issue of corruption is becoming even more apparent, while public trust in authorities and the prime minister himself is declining. Political instability, evident in Israel holding three elections in less than 12 months from April 2019 to March 2020, does not improve matters either. Anti-corruption laws are in place, but with the exception of the state comptroller, there does not seem to be any special mechanisms to fight corruption. In practice, the state comptroller has been acting as an anti-corruption watchdog for over a decade, launching several investigations into high-level politicians suspected of corruption. The current state comptroller, however, is far less aggressive than his predecessors and it seems the office will forgo its anti-corruption-related functions under its current term. Nevertheless, on a global scale, corruption perceptions in Israel are moderate. Conversely, access to information in the country is rather poor.

    Israel is party to most relevant conventions and treaties pertaining to organized crime. The country has also signed an agreement with Europol to increase bilateral efforts in the fight against organized crime, cybercrime and terrorism. With that said, however, international law enforcement bodies have expressed frustration over Israel’s reluctance to tackle financial crime as well as its inability to arrest and hold accountable individuals accused of fraud. Israeli passport holders are not usually subject to extradition, and even if extradited and convicted abroad, Israeli nationals are allowed to serve their sentence in Israel. In line with Israel’s international commitments to fighting organized crime, the country’s national policies and laws are able to adequately respond to current organized crime threats. In particular, significant efforts to combat human trafficking have been made, evident in the country’s eighth consecutive year as a Tier 1 country on the US State Departments Trafficking in Persons Report. Anti-drug legislation is also very strict, allowing law enforcement agencies greater powers to seize and destroy dangerous substances. In contrast, recreational use of marijuana was decriminalized in 2017.

    Criminal justice and security

    The state attorney is the main body that manages cases related to organized crime in Israel, with professional judges adjudicating on all criminal proceedings. A specialized unit, the National Anti-Trafficking Unit, exists within the Ministry of Justice to advise on anti-trafficking policy, advance legislation and procedures to promote anti-human trafficking and protect trafficking victims. The Israeli prison system has often been criticized for poor living conditions, inhumane treatment and torture, as well as racial profiling (particularly of Palestinian inmates). While there is no evidence that prisons have been taken over by organized crime, the Israeli prison system has reported crackdowns on inmates who belong to mafia-style groups and who have terrorized other inmates and guards. This comes in light of alleged organized-crime-related coordinated attacks on prisons, motivated by poor living conditions experienced by certain inmates. Israeli police has the National Anti-Trafficking Coordination Unit within its ranks, which is dedicated to fighting human trafficking. The unit, however, comprises different government institutions and has only one police officer. In addition, the Israel Anti-Drug Authority was restructured in 2016 to become the Authority for Prevention of Violence, Alcohol and Drug Abuse, part of the Ministry of Public Security. Importantly, Israeli law enforcement reportedly suffers under corruption as well as a lack of funding and other resources. Additionally, organized crime is not as high on the agenda as terrorism, which to an extent has impeded anti-organized crime efforts. Much of the Arab world does not recognize Israel as a state. As a result of the country’s strained relations with neighbouring states, military tensions run high in the region. Most recently, Israel annexed the Syrian Golan Heights, defying international law and furthering tensions. Israel also occupies part of Lebanon, while Hezbollah controls the southern Lebanon-Israel border. Hamas, the de facto governing body of the Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian Authority, which controls parts of the West Bank, are also sources of tension within Israel.

    Economic and financial environment

    Israel boasts a strong anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism framework, underpinned by effective mechanisms for identifying, investigating and disrupting money laundering. Thus, Israel is resilient to money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Notably, the country is not on any money laundering blacklists, but is subjected to financial sanctions by the Arab League, out of solidarity with the Palestinian people. Despite the good progress made in anti-money laundering, more efforts are needed, especially in NGO supervision and the prevention of the use of non-profit organizations for terrorist financing. Similar to its anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism framework, Israel’s economic regulatory capacity is strong enough to ensure businesses operate free of criminal interference. With that said, however, there are certain sectors that have deep ties to organized crime, including gambling, entertainment (nightclubs) and the diamond trade.

    Civil society and social protection

    The Israeli government has a fairly robust framework in place to provide support to victims of modern slavery, and authorities maintain efforts to protect trafficking victims. Along with shelter, legal assistance, medical and psychosocial support, the government either grants victims of human trafficking a year-long unrestricted work visa or provides documents that frees those who do not wish to stay in Israel of criminal responsibility and prosecution for migration violations. Israel also has a witness protection programme that grants protection to witnesses prior to, during and after trials, and provides for relocation of witnesses and their families. In terms of prevention, the Israeli government has mechanisms in place that focus on human trafficking and drug use in particular. Along with a five-year prevention plan to raise awareness of human trafficking introduced in 2019, a very detailed programme for the prevention of drug use is also in place. Notably, there are protections for whistle-blowers as well as psychological and legal aid at their disposal. NGOs play a key role in responding to organized crime in Israel, particularly with respect to human trafficking. For instance, it was due to the lobbying efforts of NGOs that the Knesset amended Israeli penal law to prohibit sex trafficking in 2000. Israeli media generally enjoy a great deal of freedom, but journalists are often subjected to hostility, verbal attacks by government officials. A degree of self-censorhip is prevalent in Israel and violence against journalists, particularly Palestinian journalists, does take place.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.