Israel’s Government Coalition Faces First Real Crisis As Bedouins Riot To Derail JNF Forest

Posted on 01/13/22 | News Source: JNS

“A big impetus for all this friction is the fact that there’s just been a disparity between the Bedouin’s perception of their property rights and Israel’s view of Bedouin property rights,” said David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Bedouin simply don’t have, for the most part, deeds to the land that they claim to be theirs.”

Bedouin rioting, coupled with a threat from a government coalition partner, halted initial plantings for a new state forest in the Negev Desert on Wednesday while negotiations take place between the sides. The disturbances stirred up existing concerns about Israel’s control of its southern region and the government’s reliance on Ra’am, an Arab-Israeli party without which it doesn’t have a majority.

The worst of the rioting took place on Tuesday in protest against Keren Kayemet LeYisrael (JNF-KKL) tree-planting ceremonies ahead of the Jewish holiday of Tu B’Shevat, to be celebrated on Jan. 17. The riots turned into a coalition crisis when Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas announced Tuesday on the Channel 12 evening news that he wouldn’t vote with the coalition until the planting was stopped.

When Ra’am first joined the government, many analysts and pundits were hopeful that the move would lead to reconciliation between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel. The party was praised for its pragmatic approach. Others warned of the danger of allowing not only an Arab party, but an Islamist one, to be given leverage over the government.

Naomi Kahn, director of Regavim’s international division, told JNS that her group warned that letting in an anti-Zionist party (Ra’am’s charter calls Zionism “a racist, occupying project”) is “giving people power who really are working at cross purposes and who support a completely different vision for this country and this part of the world.”