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Lapid, Netanyahu spar over KKL tree planting as crisis widens

Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid exchange barbs over a KKL-JNF tree planting program in southern Israel, as Bedouin protesters scrapped with police and held up traffic in the Negev over the program.

The protesters see the tree planting program as claiming Bedouin land. The coalition’s Ra’am party, whose support is based in Arab communities in the Negev, has threatened to boycott the coalition over the planting.

Members of Netanyahu’s Likud party attended a planting ceremony in the south earlier today.

“No one will stop the planting of trees in the Land of Israel,” Netanyahu tweets. “I give full backing to the security forces and demand [Prime Minister Naftali] Bennett immediately condemn the incitement by Ra’am.”

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Bennett’s chief political partner, hits back at Netanyahu, railing at “12 years of the abandonment of the Negev and neglect of the Bedouin problem” during the former premier’s tenure.

Lapid also voices support for halting the tree plantings.

“Just as the Netanyahu government stopped the plantings in 2020, it’s possible to stop now to reorganize,” he says in a statement.

“Politicians on both sides need to calm the area instead of fanning the flames,” Lapid adds.

He also condemned the rioting and voiced backing for police.

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