Hundreds of police officers flanked the route of construction workers laying down gas pipes on agricultural land near Yokne’am on Wednesday, for fear that area Druse would attempt to disrupt the construction.
The precautions turned out to be superfluous, however, as only a few dozen people came out to protest the work.
After construction was halted for two years, during which the state tried to reach a settlement with the Druse on land expropriations, the company in charge of laying the natural gas pipeline from Dor Beach, on the Carmel coastline, to the Haifa Bay, was given the green light to complete construction.
The pipeline is complete but for an 11-kilometer stretch in the middle, where the land disputes delayed it. Last month, the government announced it had determined a price for the expropriated land and that the construction would go ahead.
The price, however, was not agreed on with the Druse families whose lands the pipeline will cross, and the authorities feared that the protests would turn violent. In April 2008, the same land appropriations led to mass demonstrations, the blocking of roads and the hurling of stones and Molotov cocktails at police.
But Druse community leaders said yesterday that they would not resort to violence. Sheikh Mowafak Tarif, the spiritual leader of the Druze community told reporters that although that they had not reached an agreement with the government, the community would restrain itself.
“I believe we will have a meeting with all the leaders of the community and submit our objections and concerns to the government. We have no intention for things will turn violent and I personally will make sure that everything is resolved peacefully,” said Tarif.
The government, represented in negotiations by Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Eyal Gabai, has announced that the land appropriated, roughly 500 dunams (120 acres) would be exchanged for state land of equal value further to the north.
“When the state announced that an agreement had been reached, it was
not accurate. The residents and the leadership sees the state’s
unilateral announcement as an improper move that doesn’t honor the
community. We have sent our objections to Gabai and we believe that the
government will accept most of them,” said Eyal Hadid, the spokesman
for the Daliat al-Carmel local council.
“We don’t see the land as mere real estate. For us it is of higher
value. It is a matter of our roots. It is of ancestral importance to
us,” explained Hadid.