Israeli planting in Negev is ‘Mansour Abbas’ most significant test,’ Islamic movement says

January 13, 2022 by Baruch Yedid - TPS
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The clashes in the Negev resumed Wednesday morning and continued for the second day in a row. Residents of the unrecognized Bedouin villages worked to prevent the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) tractors from preparing the land for planting.

Ra’am Party leader Mansour Abbas gives a speech before the Knesset, June 13, 2021. Source: Twitter

The heads of the Bedouin public in the Negev expressed opposition to police and said that “the battle for the Negev has begun,” describing the police’s actions as “an attack on the Bedouin.”

On Tuesday, more than 20 rioters were arrested in the village of al-Atrash in the Negev, which led the steering committee of the Negev Arabs to convene in the village, and after discussing the issue of plantings and arrests, decided to escalate the situation and ordered a strike in all their schools, leaving home some 40,000 children. The committee also called for an extensive protest demonstration on Thursday.

Events in the Negev pose a political threat to the Islamist Ra’am party, a member of Naftali Bennett’s coalition, and officials in the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement see the issue of JNF planting as the most significant political test for Mansour Abbas, chairman of Ra’am. Ra’am has threatened to stop voting with the coalition in the Knesset until the planting ceases.

Ra’am is very concerned about the events in the Negev, where the party’s political power base is located, as 60% of the Negev residents voted for the party in the last elections. Sources in the Islamic Movement understand that this is the first test in which the issue of land ownership has come up for discussion precisely in the area where the party’s most important political backing exists.

A very senior member of the Southern Islamic Movement claimed in a conversation with TPS that the incidents “are a strategic cooperation between the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu, who has sent roots to all government ministries and centres of power in Israel, and the Joint Arab List, on the way to overthrowing the current government.”

He charged that “the current stupid government is marching with an open eye into the ambush, which Benjamin Netanyahu and Ayman Odeh set, and it insists on continuing planting, while millions of dunams remain empty in the Negev. This is a brilliant political move on the part of Netanyahu and a very dangerous move on the part of Bennett,” the senior official said.

Sheikh Kamel Ryan, a senior member of the Southern Branch who joined Mansour Abbas on a visit to King Abdullah in Jordan, wrote Wednesday that “the Negev is the people, the country, and an identity, and must stay above political struggles.” He called for “protecting the Negev as a national, religious and moral duty” and added that “the Israeli policy pursued against the Palestinian people since 1948 must be fought and a new policy must be planted in place that will empower the residents on their lands.”

The embarrassment in the Islamic Movement is significant and especially in light of the fact that only a few weeks ago, Mansour Abbas said that he recognised Israel as a Jewish state. Sources in the Islamic Movement called on the leadership to “conduct a home inspection” on its partnership in the coalition and the Movement’s policy in general. Mayors and councils called on Abbas to “take a clear and decisive stance on the planting.”

The Joint List, the other Arab party in the Knesset and a member of the opposition who competes with Ra’am, is exploiting the events for political purposes. Its representatives went down to the Negev to show a presence in an area considered the centre of Ra’am’s political support and approached the Minister of Internal Security Omer Barlev and demanded that he release the detainees.

It seems that the Joint List will not shed a tear if the Negev burns soon in a fire that will also send up in flames the support for the Southern Branch of the Islamic Movement and Ra’am.

The Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement is also taking advantage of the events to demonstrate support of the residents of the Negev. Sheikh Kamal Khatib, deputy chairman of the Northern Branch, said Wednesday that “the attack on the lands in the Negev is an attack on the entire honour.”

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