Forestation in Negev/Naqab to continue, Israel minister says

Palestinian Bedouins stage a demonstration against the planting works carried out by the Jewish National Fund (Mücahit Aydemir - Anadolu Agency)

Middle East Monitor  /  January 15, 2022

Forestation in the Negev/Naqab region is set to continue with the government refusing to discuss the issue, aides close to Israeli Housing and Land Minister Ze’ev Elkin have confirmed, reported Sama News Agency on Friday.

Since Friday, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), in cooperation with the Israeli government, has been grading the land of Arab residents of Israel (Palestinians who did not leave their lands in 1948) and planting trees.

The Palestinians insist that these activities are a prelude to displacing them from their villages and lands on which they were born and have inherited from their forefathers.

Following mass protests by Palestinian residents and threats from the Ra’am Party to quit the government coalition, the Israeli government announced that it had suspended the afforestation project in the Negev region.

However, Elkin stated: ‘We will continue to plant trees like we should. We will handle the political problem. I understand the pressure that the Bedouin public (Arab residents) is putting on [the Palestinian] Ra’am [Party].’

‘These are state-owned lands. I am in favour of solving the problems through dialogue, and that is the line [Ra’am leader Mansour] Abbas is taking, which I welcome.’

Ra’am Chairman Mansour Abbas has threatened that his party will not vote with the coalition until the matter is resolved.

Ynet News reported that the JNF had not stopped its plan to grade the land, pointing out that it scheduled 100 days of forestation.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett claimed that all the activities had stopped, but ‘rioting’ by Palestinians had not.