KKL-JNF plans to add hundreds of thousands of acres to the forested areas in Israel and protect them with a new law, as part of an ambitious 25-year national strategic plan. The agency is promoting legislation to redefine forests in the broadest sense of the word, to map out areas for conservation of both naturally growing and planted forests, and to locate clear space that isn’t already allocated for other purposes in government plans where KKL-JNF can plant more trees.
The legal move follows last year’s political disaster when Negev Bedouins rioted against KKL-JNF carrying out its normal annual task of foresting the desert on state lands. If you recall, the government back then relied on a pro-Bedouin Islamist party, and the works were quickly brought to a halt, at which point the Bedouins uprooted the fledgling trees.
Yifat Ovadia Lusky, the first chairwoman of KKL-JNF, said her agency “is at the forefront of preserving the country, developing it, and building it. Grasping and preserving the land along with settlement and planting have been KKL-JNF’s values since the early days of Zionism, and we are proud to be a leader in these areas today. Together with KKL-JNF’s management and employees, we will continue to work to build the country.”
That’s when Hadash-Ta’al, the other Arab party, came out with its own condemnation of what has been the lifeline of the Zionist renewal movement in Eretz Israel since 1901, the year KKL-JNF was founded. Ayman Odeh and Ahmad Tibi’s party called the planting “a despicable and outrageous decision disguised in the form of planting trees,” adding (sic), “What the residents of the Negev need is full recognition of the unrecognized Palestinian villages and towns, infrastructure and rights — not another display of ‘governance.’”
Meanwhile, MKs Almog Cohen (Otzma Yehudit) and Hanoch Milwidsky (Likud) arrived on Sunday together with Im Tirtzu CEO Matan Peleg and a group of activists to plant trees in the Yatir forest in the Negev. Peleg said: “The blossoming of the wilderness in the Negev has always been a cornerstone of the Zionist enterprise, and as Ben Gurion said – in the Negev the people of Israel will be tested. The Bedouins are not our enemies, our enemy is our fear of ourselves.”
A little bit Ben Gurion, a little bit Reb Nachman…