Bennett vows to pursue Jewish settler ‘lawlessness’ in Naqab and West Bank

Israeli police officers detain a Bedouin man during a protest against forestation at the Naqab-Negev desert village of Sawe al-Atrash, southern Israel (Reuters)

Heba Nasser

Middle East Eye  /  January 28, 2022

Meanwhile, former military chief of staff warns of third Palestinian Intifada, and Israel plans to discredit UN probe into Gaza May 2021 campaign.

Israel will act against “pockets of lawlessness” in the Naqab (Negev) and the occupied West Bank, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in wide-ranging interviews with Israeli publications published on Friday.

Despite having previously defended settler attacks against Palestinians, Bennett told the Jerusalem Post that he had ordered the heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s security agency, and the military to put an end to violence by Jewish settlers in the Palestinian towns of Burin and Huwara in the northern West Bank. 

 “There is a police force and there is an army, and there is also terrible Palestinian violence that has led to acts of murder, including recently,” Bennett told Haaretz.

Last week, settlers beat Palestinians and Israeli activists with clubs and shovels as they planted trees near Burin. Two days later, settlers vandalized Palestinian shops, homes and vehicles in the town of Huwara, in a violent attack that left three Palestinians wounded.

Also last week, Israeli settlers seized a plot of land in occupied East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. 

The prime minister in December defended settlers who attacked Palestinians in another incident in Burin, calling their attacks insignificant and describing them as a “protective wall”.

“I will not allow this to continue,” Bennett said of the violence in his interview with the Jerusalem Post. “We will act against pockets of lawlessness in the Negev, in Judea and Samaria – everywhere,” he said, using the biblical name of the West Bank.

Tensions in south Israel’s Negev have also been brewing, as Israeli forces brutally crack down on Bedouins amid a controversial forestation plan by the Jewish National Fund (JFN) that requires ploughing over lands and wheat crops of Palestinians.

The plans were halted earlier this month when the Israeli government pressured the JFN to stop its plan after four Arab Knesset members representing Palestinians in the Negev warned that they were not going to vote in support of future laws proposed by Bennett’s government.

However, despite the pressures that his government is facing, both from his own lawmakers, Europe and Washington, to deal with the issue in the Negev, Bennett told Israel Hayom that the JFN plan should be carried out.

“There were a few who said not to plant the trees, and I said they should be planted the next day,” he said.

“There are laws, and they can bring in as many police as they need to – trees will be planted, and after that, I’m willing to talk with everyone.”

Heba Nasser is a news editor at Middle East Eye