Minister: Compromise Reached on Negev Tree-Planting
i24 News – The Israeli minister in charge of regulating Bedouin settlements announced on Wednesday that a compromise has been reached on a tree-planting program in the Negev desert region, Walla! News reports.
The activity sparked two days of violent demonstrations and threatened to shatter the coalition government.
Welfare and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen said that the Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) forestry program will stop planting trees and the parties will convene on an accelerated basis to work out a new forestation plan.
The announcement comes after a second day of protests by local Bedouins against the tree-planting program.
Police made 11 arrests during clashes Wednesday morning, as the tree-planting resumed amid heavy security.
Tuesday saw rioters torch cars, block trains and clash with police, lightly wounding two officers, according to media reports. A total of 18 arrests were made during the demonstrations.
A delegation from the Likud party attended Tuesday’s tree-planting ceremony, while an Israeli MK from the Religious Zionism party, Itamar Ben Gvir, participated in Wednesday’s dig.
The planting set off a coalition crisis in Jerusalem, with Islamist Ra’am party chief Mansour Abbas threatening to withhold his faction’s four votes from the ruling government until the issue is resolved.
Local Bedouins oppose the tree-planting program, which they see as an encroachment on their land that is home to settlements without permits that they fear could one day be dismantled by Israel in favor of regulated development plans.