Bennett faces coalition criticism after Arab parties protest JNF trees in Negev

“For the first time in 73 years, a senior member of the Israeli government opposes planting trees in the land of Israel. Bennett,” the Likud Party said.

By World Israel News staff

Ra’am (United Arab List) MKs protested a plan by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) to plant a forest’s worth of trees in the Negev on Monday, as they claimed the land belonged to members of the Bedouin sector.

Hundreds of police officers were called to protect KKL-JNF workers preparing the ground for saplings in the land adjacent to the Bedouin town of Hura, which Ra’am MKs claim belongs to the al-Atrash family. Ra’am and Joint List MKs flocked to the land to protest.

“We stand united in the cause to allow them [the Bedouin residents] to keep their land and their rights,” Ra’am head Mansour Abbas said at the protest.

“There are some 300,000 Bedouin Arabs who live in the Negev. The government claims that they are invading [into the land that isn’t theirs]. They are not. Human life is more important than a tree,” he said.

The right-wing NGO Revagim said the land where the trees were planted belonged to the state and not to Bedouin.

Meanwhile, the Likud Party attacked Bennett’s coalition in response to Ra’am’s protest.

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“Every day, the Bennett-Ra’am government reduces itself to a new anti-Zionist low,” the leading opposition party said.

“For the first time in 73 years, a senior member of the Israeli government opposes planting trees in the land of Israel. Bennett, you should be ashamed.”

Joint List MK Aida Touma-Suleiman abruptly cancelled a Knesset hearing on the issue of polygamy in the Bedouin sector only minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start on Sunday, as she claimed that “at this very moment, land is being stolen in the Negev.”

Suleiman was criticized by Naomi Kahn, director of the Regavim International Division, who said that “Touma-Suleiman made it abundantly clear, in both words and actions, where her priorities lie – not in advancing the welfare and status of women, but in aiding and abetting the anarchy and lawlessness that are engulfing the Negev.”