Palestinians Throw Rocks in Negev Tree-Planting

YERUSHALAYIM -

An Arab protest against the planting of trees in the Negev turned violent on Tuesday as Palestinian youth threw rocks at police deployed to protect the Jewish National Fund employees, according to Arutz Sheva.

18 Bedouin were arrested in the attempt to prevent bulldozers from clearing the land for planting in the Moleda area in the Negev. No injuries were reported.

The incident was part of a protest led by the coalition’s own Ra’am party. Its chairman Mansour Abbas said Tuesday that he will stop voting with the coalition until the planting is halted.

Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan (Meretz) visited the protest encampment in Moleda this evening. “I then spoke with my friends, Minister Nitzan Horowitz, Minister Meir Cohen, Deputy Minister Yoav Saglovitz, and Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas. I call for the release of the detainees, for the planting to stop, and for all parties to sit at the negotiating table and calm the winds for the future of the Negev,” said Golan.

Members of the Likud party were at the site Tuesday afternoon by invitation of Israel Goldstein, chairperson of the KKL-JNF’s Worker’s union.

Likud MK Amir Ohana said that “what was supposed to be a routine event – planting in the run-up to Tu B’Shvat, has become under the Islamic Movement’s government a controversial event that requires significant deployment of security forces.”

“Deepening our roots in the Land of Israel in general, and in the Negev in particular, is our message, and this is contrary to the Islamic movement which seeks to deprive the Jewish people of their lands by severing the connection between the people of Israel and the Land of Israel,” Ohana said.

MK Keti Shitrit said: “With feeding comes appetite. The protection of the Islamic movement continues. Following the Electricity Law, Ra’am is now demanding that the JNF’s planting on state lands be stopped. This is what extortion by threats looks like,” according to Arutz 7.

Opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid entered the fray on Tuesday night, as well.

“No one will stop the planting of trees in the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted. “I give full backing to the security forces and demand [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett immediately condemn the incitement by Ra’am.”

Lapid responded by bringing up what he called “12 years of the abandonment of the Negev and neglect of the Bedouin problem” during his premiership.

He also argued that a halt in the plantings would not be out of the question, though the government has not taken a position.

“Just as the Netanyahu government stopped the plantings in 2020, it’s possible to stop now to reorganize,” he said in a statement.

“Politicians on both sides need to calm the area instead of fanning the flames,” Lapid added, and said he too condemned violence and said the law must be respected.