Pro-Negev umbrella council to be created in effort to form effective lobby

Pro-Negev umbrella counc

Several NGOs that promote settling the periphery will unite their efforts in a new umbrella council, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced on Tuesday, following a conference he organized at the Knesset on strengthening the North and the South. The organizations include Or, Hashomer, Im Tirtzu, the Movement of Zionist Renewal and Nefesh B'Nefesh. The organizations intend to pool their resources into an effective lobby in dealing with the government. "The struggle for the land of Israel has not ended," Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu) said. "There are those inside and outside Israel who are trying to disconnect the Negev and Galilee from the the country. If there is no Jewish majority in these areas, they will be in danger, because there are those who could ask for autonomy." Ayalon, who chaired the Nefesh B'Nefesh aliya organization and was a board member of Or before entering the Knesset, hosted the event as an MK, not as deputy foreign minister. He said he invited Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom (Likud) to the event, but he did not come. Shalom's office denied that they had received an invitation and said other conferences on such issues were fully coordinated with the ministry. They said that Shalom answered parliamentary inquiries about the Negev and Galilee in the Knesset plenum on Tuesday. "This was a political event of Israel Beiteinu," Shalom's spokeswoman said. Shalom and Ayalon sparred repeatedly in the past when Shalom was foreign minister and Ayalon was Israel's ambassador to Washington. Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin spoke at the event and made a point of praising both Ayalon and Shalom. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman used his speech at the event to complain that security authorities recently prevented him from driving through the Hebron Hills on his way to Jerusalem from Arad. He said the security precautions doubled the length of his trip. "In England and France, ministers can take any street they want," Lieberman said. "There are 100,000 illegal buildings [built by Arabs] that are aimed at taking control of the land and destroying the state."