The government capitulated to the Ra’am party on Wednesday, giving in to its demand to immediately cease the planting of trees in the Negev.
However, the Bedouins nevertheless continued to riot on Wednesday evening and Thursday and dozens of rioters have been arrested. Additionally, the Ra’am party, which had threatened to stop voting with the coalition if the planting didn’t stop, continued to boycott the coalition and didn’t show up to the Knesset to vote on Wednesday evening. Yamina MK Nir Orbach also walked out, saying: “Why should I stay here while Ra’am can do whatever they want?”
This led to the coalition’s most embarrassing crisis in the Knesset yet as the opposition quickly took advantage of the situation and submitted legislation while the coalition lacked a majority, successfully approving eight laws in preliminary votes.
Earlier on Wednesday, Welfare Minister Meir (Yesh Atid) forged an agreement with the Bedouins that the tractors preparing the ground would leave on Wednesday and then further negotiations will take place on Thursday to reach a final agreement.
Meanwhile, Deputy Economy Minister Yair Golan (Meretz) spoke to the Bedouins and tried to appease them by mocking Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin, who on Wednesday had insisted that the planting will continue. In a video published by Israeli media, Golan is heard saying: “Elkin is interfering? Don’t worry, we’ll calm him down. Remember that he has no power in the government.”
“You have power in the government today that no Bedouins in the Negev ever had. Meretz will protect your interests and I hope also Labor. I can tell you that Meir Cohen of Yesh Atid is with you as well as Alon Schuster of Blue and White. We established an agricultural lobby in the Knesset and we blocked all the initiatives of Forer and Lieberman, So why shouldn’t we block Elkin?”
“You need to work smart. Do you what you need to do in the area,” Golan asserted.
Elkin dismissed Golan’s words telling Channel 13 News: “Yair Golan has turned into an ‘elite’ chatterbox – from a respected IDF general to a politician that no one takes seriously. He’s not even worth paying attention to.”
Religious Zionist party chairman Betzalel Smotrich responded to the report by stating: “‘Do what you want in the area.’ Yair Golan explicitly incites the Bedouin to terrorism and violence against the Stae of Israel, its police, and its citizens. The pit in which this wretched partnership of Ayelet Shaked and her friends is sinking is bottomless.”
In the video below, hundreds of Bedouins can be seen gathering for a mass protest in the Be’er Sheva area on Thursday afternoon.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)