Photo Credit: Youtube screenshot
Israel Police officers protecting the JNF machinery against Bedouin protesters in the Negev, Jan. 11, 2022.

Zeev Elkin, Minister of Construction and Housing, Jerusalem, and Heritage told Reshet Bet radio Wednesday morning that despite the riots of the Bedouin in the Negev following the JNF tree planting (KKL-JNF Continues Holy Work of Planting Trees in the Negev Despite Arab Outrage, Violence), the planting will continue.

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“The previous government halted the planting,” Elkin reminded the listeners that in December 2020, Minister Amir Peretz ordered a halt to planting in the Negev, presumably with Netanyahu’s approval. “Politicians are taking advantage of an important Zionist issue to stir up excitement,” he said and added that he understands the pressures exerted on Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas. “If we lose a few votes because of Ra’am – then we’ll lose,” he said.

Based on an official document that was uncovered, the halt that Peretz ordered was for one month, so that discussions could be held with some of the Bedouin tribes.

Before we continue, here’s a fun item: far-left Meretz politician and former Peace Now chairman Yariv Oppenheimer tweeted late Tuesday night about the planting from an unusual angle for an anti-Jewish activist: how can the Jewish state plant trees on the Shmita, the sabbatical year in the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah in the Land of Israel:

“The halakhic ban on ascending the Temple Mount was lifted to provoke the Arabs. It’s permitted to violate Shabbat to build in settlements and outposts. And there’s a special permit to carry out plantings on the shmita if the purpose is to dispossess Arabs. They have no respect for their own religion.”

His concern is touching. So Otzma Yehudit Chairman Itamar Ben Gvir asked Rabbi Dov Lior who ruled that “the war on the Land of Israel is a mitzvah d’oraita (Torah level commandment) and this is how it should be treated.”

But in my humble opinion, there’s no need to rely on the mitzvah of settling the land of Israel to permit the holy work of KKL-JNF to block with forests the wild expansion of the Bedouin in the Negev. Maimonides ruled (Shabbat 82:23), based on Eruvim 45a, that in settlements near the frontier, it is permitted to take up arms on Shabbat against visiting gentiles, even if they come only to trade hay because near the frontier we assume that a gentile has come to do violence. And those Bedouin certainly did violence on Tuesday. After all, the purpose of those trees is to stop these very Bedouin.

Eighteen suspects were arrested, six of them boys ages 13 to 17, in the riots. Then a Be’er Sheva District Court judge showed that down south they have certainly internalized Maimonides’ ruling: he made it clear that he had no intention to release the suspects after their arrests had been appealed. The judge said: “As long as the police try to take control of the violence against them, there is no reason to release detainees a few hours after they have been arrested. The police need to conduct an investigation and decide whether to bring them to a remand hearing, at which point we will discuss it.”

Thank God for frontier judges!

The Regavim movement, founded by Religious Zionism Chairman Bezalel Smotrich, issued a statement on Tuesday night, saying: “We warned and alerted on the eve of the formation of the government in front of all the Zionist parties, that it is forbidden to form a government that relies on an anti-Zionist party that supports terrorism. We warned the government members even before the passing of the state budget that Ra’am would not be satisfied with the freezing of the Kaminitz law (making it easier to cite illegal construction – DI), with NIS 50 billion (promised to the Arab sector – DI), and the electricity law (connecting illegal homes to the national grid – DI), and that immediately after the passage of the Electricity Law they would issue their new list of demands. Well, the list of demands was written this evening on the roads of the Negev with rocks and burning tires.”

Foreign Minister and Israel’s next prime minister for his part offered a glimpse of what’s to be expected when he’s in charge when he tweeted: “12 years of abandoning the Negev and neglecting the Bedouin problem will not be solved in one day. The State of Israel should plant trees on state lands, but we don’t have to harm the livelihoods of the area’s residents.”

Lapid continued: “Just as the Netanyahu government stopped the planting in 2020, it is possible to stop now and reorganize. The change government is committed to solving the Bedouin problem and bringing about a settlement in the Negev. Politicians on all sides need to calm down instead of adding to the fire. I condemn the violence on the ground and support the activities of the police to restore public order.”

And you just know that once he’s the PM, the order to halt the tree planting will come down so fast, it’ll stir up a Negev dust storm.

MK Amichai Chikli, the bad boy of the Yamina Knesset faction, replied: “You’re currently being blackmailed by real violent threats from Ra’am. The expectation from you, even if you are not a right-winger, is that you will not fold like a rug. You, too, are allowed, for the sake of our children’s future, to show national resilience in the face of the terrorism being perpetrated by members of your coalition.”

For now, Ra’am informed the coalition that they would boycott the plenum on Wednesday and in the foreseeable future until the planting stops. This makes passing laws next to impossible for the Lapid-Bennett government. They looked for offset deals with four opposition members who would agree to stay home or take a vacation in Eilat, but that’s very unlikely. In fact, this could be an opportunity for the opposition to slide a few bills through under the watchful eyes of Knesset Speaker Mickey Levy.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning the police beefed up its presence around the Bedouin village of Mulada, where the holy work of planting trees in Eretz Israel continues. At the moment, there are more cops on hand over there than there are Bedouin rioters or, for that matter, trees.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.