Dispute within Israeli government: it’s not just trees in the desert

Status: 12/01/2022 1:46 p.m.

A planting campaign in the Negev desert becomes a test for the Israeli government. Trees should be planted on the land where Bedouin Arabs live.

By Benjamin Hammer, ARD-Studio Tel Aviv

A car is on fire, as seen in footage from the Israeli KAN TV channel. The car is parked in the middle of a street in the Bedouin town of Shaqib al-Salam. It is located in the Negev Desert, which is called Naqab in Arabic. Demonstrations and clashes with the Israeli police erupted overnight. A regional train had to trigger emergency braking because stones were placed on the tracks.

Trees in the desert – for the protection of the environment

The protests were sparked by a project that at first glance does not appear controversial: the Jewish National Fund KKL is planting trees in the desert on behalf of a government agency. According to the KKL, it is about the conservation of the landscape and the protection of the environment and a Jewish tradition before the feast of Tu Bishwat.

Bedouin Arabs who live in the region, however, have doubts about these motives. From their point of view, the aim is to confiscate Arab land and prevent the construction of houses for Bedouins. 160,000 Bedouins live in the Negev Desert. Many of them in simple huts without electricity or water. In villages, some of which are not recognized by the State of Israel.

Israeli security forces guard the area where trees are to be planted.

Construction: AP

Dispute reveals fragile coalition

Improve the living conditions of Bedouins: this is a promise made by the Israeli government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. The project gave the government a slim majority in parliament because the Arab Ra’am party agreed to be part of the coalition.

The fact that there is now a dispute over the trees shows how fragile the eight-party alliance is. The Ra’am party threatens to stop voting with the coalition in the Knesset as long as the plantation continues. The government would then no longer have a parliamentary majority.

Bedouins claim the land

Ra’am Iman Hatib Yassin MP spoke with broadcaster KAN. “We entered into this partnership in the hope that our partners understand that the Arab citizens of this state have fundamental rights. They deserve to live honorably on their land with these fundamental rights. That is what we are in politics for. We are here, serving our fellow citizens, the Arab citizens. ”

The Bedouin who live there protest against reforestation, clashes and arrests take place.

Image: AFP

MPs planted trees

Bedouin people in the area say the trees are planted on land they own. The State of Israel denies this.

Opposition Likud MPs drove into the Negev desert and demonstratively planted trees. Avi Dichter did the same: “It’s a fight between criminals and the state. The criminals want to control areas outside their village, and the state and the KKL are taking care of things with the help of the tree, the tractor and the Political Order. “

Parts of the government are also in favor of the plantation – for example, Construction Minister Ze’ev Elkin of the New Hope party. “The status of these countries is that they belong to the state. There are courts in the State of Israel, and anyone who claims it is their private land is invited to sue in one of those courts.

However, the Bedouin argue that they are structurally disadvantaged and that Israeli courts, as a rule, do not help them. Many of them voted for Ra’am, the Arab party that is part of the coalition. Foreign Minister Lapid sided with the Arabs. Bedouin issues have been neglected for years.

Trees, fires, protests: Israeli government faces new acid test

Benjamin Hammer, ARD Tel Aviv, 12.1.202212:54

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