Ra’am leader Abbas says ‘Negev will flourish and prosper for the benefit of us all’

After violent attacks by rioters and several days of clashes, as well as threats by Ra’am to vote against the government, the planting of trees in the Negev came to a halt Wednesday afternoon. 

By Gil Tanenbaum/TPS

Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Arab Ra’am Party, issued a bizarre statement Wednesday evening on Twitter declaring his support for the government’s plans to continue with the development of the Negev, but with conditions. The statement comes after the government seemingly gave in to violent activity on the part of Bedouin clans in the Negev and ordered the halting of a JNF planting project there.

The Ra’am Party, while not formally part of Israel’s government as it holds no cabinet portfolios, is still considered a part of the Knesset coalition as its supports the government from the outside. Naftali Bennett and his partners required votes from the party when their government was formed last June. And its ability to maintain a majority in the Knesset depends on the coalition’s continued good relations with Ra’am.

After violent attacks by rioters, including an attempt to derail a train and several days of clashes, and threats by Ra’am, to vote against the government, Israel’s Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Meir Cohen announced Wednesday that the tractors would cease their work and that his office would enter negotiations with the local Bedouin clans, who claim ownership to the state lands, on future developments in the area.

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The Regavim Movement acts to prevent illegal seizure of state land and to protect the rule of law and clean government in matters pertaining to land-use policy in the State of Israel. It issued a statement decrying the decision to suspend the JNF forestation project in southern Israel, charging that it amounted to continued “protection payments” to Mansour Abbas, which “make the next round of violence and domestic terrorism inevitable.”

“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,” read the statement.

In what I clearly a response to all of this, Abbas tweeted about these events, “There are no winners and losers, we all together as citizens will win when we plant hope and let the residents of the Negev live and earn a decent living.”

Abbas added that the continued settlement and development of the Negev is “in the interest of all of us, Jews and Arabs. We will advance with discussions that will lead to acceptable agreements.”

He went on to charge that to date the governments of Israel have failed to address the issues of the Negev, but that now, “together we will restore the fabric of relations and the Negev will flourish and prosper for the benefit of us all.”

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