In the semi-desert region of southern Israel, Bedouins are angry at a controversial afforestation project. An important issue for the Israeli government coalition, but also for the Zionist project as a whole.
For the past week, clashes, some turning into riot, have pitted Bedouin from the semi-desert region of the Negev, which represents 55% of Israeli territory, against the Israeli police forces.
In question, the initiation by the KKL (Jewish National Fund) of a vast afforestation program, via the planting of carob and fig trees, “On land officially dormant but over which Bedouin communities in the region claim traditional grazing rights dating back to a period prior to the creation of the State of Israel”, as journalist Anshel Pfeffer explains in Ha’Aretz.
A political bomb
This is not the first time that the Bedouins have come into conflict with the Israeli authorities. But the political and parliamentary context changed in 2021. For the first time, an Arab political party, in this case the United Arab List (LAU), affiliated with the Islamic Movement, Islamo-conservative, participates in an Israeli government. Its leader, Mansour Abbas, holds the post of Minister Delegate for Arab Affairs to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.
In addition, as Pfeffer, already very heterogeneous, reminds us, “The current government coalition [qui a mis fin au règne du Likoud de Benyamin Nétanyahou] has only a very narrow majority in the Knesset and depends among other things on the four elected members of the LAU, these elected largely in front of their seats in the Bedouin vote ”.
It is therefore an understatement to say that the government […] is on hot coals and the Bedouin question is now a political time bomb. ”
But, much more than this fragile government arithmetic, the Bedouin revolt constitutes a new challenge to the Zionist enterprise of greening the Negev and imposing a lasting Jewish demographic majority in this semi-desert region. In any case, it is from this angle that most Israeli editorial writers react.
In a column published in Ha’Aretz, Israel Harel sees in the recent clashes a Bedouin policy of fait accompli. “This policy of