Israeli gov’t folds, stops JNF tree planting amid Bedouin violence

JNF forestation project in the Negev suspended, government to negotiate with Bedouins.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

The Israeli government succumbed to rioting Bedouins and political pressure from the Islamist Ra’am party and ordered the stopping of Jewish National Fund tree-planting in the Negev.

The development comes after after days of violent Bedouin rioting — including an attempt to derail a train — and threats by Ra’am to vote against the coalition which it is a part of. Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Meir Cohen announced Wednesday that the tractors were retreating and that his office would enter negotiations with the local Bedouin clans, who claim ownership to the state lands.

The Bedouin Authority is under the purview of his office.

“Along with the supreme right that the state has to plant in its territory, it is important to do so responsibly, and therefore it must be reorganized with regard to the issue of planting. As the coordinator of the settlement plans, I am in dialogue with all parties involved in an attempt to reach a solution that promotes the issue, which is the most important issue for the return of law and order to the Negev,” Cohen said.

He claimed that “the plantings today will be completed as planned,” but the tractors left the area mid-day.

Following the decision to suspend the JNF forestation project in southern Israel, the Regavim Movement decried “the government’s capitulation,” charging this decision as continued “protection payments” to Mansour Abbas, that “make the next round of violence and domestic terrorism inevitable.”

The statement by Regavim, which monitors the illegal Arab seizure of Israeli land, added, “The Ra’am Party and the Bedouin know full well that they can dictate to the government through the use of political pressure, strong-arm tactics and violence. When you cave to terrorism and blackmail, you invite the next round of violence.”

Dr. Edy Cohen, who specializes in inter-Arab relations and terrorism, explained in a conversation with TPS that the violence, motivated by Islamic sentiments, “is part of the Arabs’ war of liberation. They want to conquer the country, and are doing so under the guise of [land] rights and disagreements.”

“This started in Jerusalem, it worked well for them, now it’s the Negev, tomorrow it’s Haifa and Lod,” he warned.

The planting does not interest them, he explained, “it’s just an excuse. They claim that this [the planting] is a move to Judaize their lands, meaning that the premise is that the lands of the Negev are the lands of the Bedouin, and there is now an attempt by Israel to turn them into Jewish lands. That’s the whole story.”

He further noted that these violent incidents are taking place now because “they have backing, they have MKs on whom the coalition rests. They have power.”