by Karen Faulkner, Worthy News Correspondent
(Worthy News) – Bedouin rioters in southern Israel’s Negev desert have torched cars, blocked trains, and injured two police officers in protest at a government forest-planting program they see as a land grab, the Times of Israel (TOI) reports.
Protestors say the Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL) has used planting trees in the Negev desert as a reason to destroy homes and take over land that Bedouin have lived on for centuries.
Tensions began to rise several weeks ago when the KKL began its planting program in a part of the Negev settled by Bedouin from the al-Atrash tribe, TOI reports. The Israeli government says the land is public property and that it has the right to plant trees there. The Bedouin say this is their land.
“As part of this work, they have destroyed tin homes of those living in the area and planted the land with trees — all so as to take over the land,” Yaqoub Dreijat, a political adviser in the Al-Kasom regional council, told TOI.
In further complications for the government, Arab Ra’am party leader Mansour Abbas said he will not vote with the governing coalition until the planting stops: a minuscule majority of 61 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the government must have the support of Abbas to advance its lawmaking agenda.
In a statement to Channel 12 News, Abbas said: “We will not vote with the coalition until the plantings in the south are stopped. I can’t continue like this. I have absorbed more difficult things in the past, but when they shoot straight in my chest I can’t stand it anymore. The Negev is Ra’am.”
The government did, however, receive backing from former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, Benjamin Netanyahu. “No one will stop the planting of trees in the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted Tuesday. “I give full backing to the security forces and demand [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett immediately condemn the incitement by Ra’am.”
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