Is tree planting in the Negev resuming despite tensions with Bedouins?

Last year, tree plantings caused clashes with the Bedouin population that lives in the area.

MK Itamar Ben-Gvir plant a tree outside the Bedouin village of al-Atrash in the Negev desert, southern Israel, January 12, 2022. (photo credit: FLASH90)
MK Itamar Ben-Gvir plant a tree outside the Bedouin village of al-Atrash in the Negev desert, southern Israel, January 12, 2022.
(photo credit: FLASH90)

The tree plantings in Nahal Yatir in the Negev have been approved, Maariv learned on Friday. Following the intervention of the Development of the Periphery, Negev and Galilee Minister Yitzhak Wasserlauf, the plantings in the area will take place as planned next Sunday.

Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) denied the approval, and said that "The plantings and settlement are among the leading values of the organization. The request from the Israel Land Authority arrived only last night and it needs to go through the professional bodies, as we do with every request or action we carry out. We will continue to be key partners in building the country and in maintaining developing the land."

Otzma Yehudit MK to arrive at site on Sunday to plant trees

Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen responded that "the plantings are a symbol of the sovereignty of the State of Israel in the Negev, and the KKL-JNF as an executive body has no authority to decide on their existence or not. KKL-JNF is committed to implementing the government's decision number 2397 of 2017. As I have already announced, I will arrive on Sunday morning together with the activists of the 'Im Tirzu' movement and begin the sacred work of planting trees in order to preserve the state's lands in the Negev. Land that we do not cultivate, we will lose."

On Thursday, the Israel Land Authority sent a letter to KKL-JNF that permission has not yet been given to carry out plantings in the area of Nahal Yatir, after last year the plantings caused friction with the Bedouin population that lives near the place.

 Israeli police officers clash with Bedouins during a protest against tree planting by the Jewish National Fund, outside the Bedouin village of al-Atrash in the Negev desert, southern Israel, January 13, 2022. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90) Israeli police officers clash with Bedouins during a protest against tree planting by the Jewish National Fund, outside the Bedouin village of al-Atrash in the Negev desert, southern Israel, January 13, 2022. (credit: JAMAL AWAD/FLASH90)

The works are expected to take place on areas that are owned by the state and are not in dispute. The authority stated in the letter that "we were surprised to find out that despite the efforts together with the police, KKL has not yet given its approval."

The authority added that "Planting operations to preserve the land in the Negev have been carried out for about thirty years. The works prevent intrusions and illegal construction and prevent major environmental damage. The requested lands are in lands controlled by the state. The government of the country is on low lands and there is a real need to preserve these lands - some of which constitute a future extension to Highway 6 and the preservation of a buffer zone from the nearby Nevatim base."

On Thursday, Wasserlauf stated "I am working with all the relevant bodies. The plantings in the Negev will not stop. The reality requires planting in the Negev. At this time I am working with all the relevant factors to sustain the plantings. It is not just about planting trees, but about planting sovereignty and governance in the Negev, to prevent an intrusion on state lands."