New Otzma Yehudit MK: Jewish residents in Negev live in a sense of fear and terror

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

New Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen poses for a picture a day before the opening session of the Knesset on November 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
New Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen poses for a picture a day before the opening session of the Knesset on November 14, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

In his maiden speech on the Knesset floor, far-right Otzma Yehudit MK Almog Cohen says that Israel is violating its fundamental social contract by not ensuring its citizens’ personal safety.

Focusing on pervasive lawlessness in the southern Negev region, Cohen says that: “We are in a situation where the state is violating the most basic and unwritten contract between it and its citizens, which is their personal safety.”

“The reality in which my brothers and sisters, residents of the Negev, live in is a sense of fear and terror of what is to come, with constant anxiety for the future of our children,” he adds, tying together two of Otzma Yehudit’s central campaign promises: improving personal security and developing peripheral regions.

Cohen’s remarks come as his party battles for control over the ministry responsible for developing the Negev, the northern Galilee, and other peripheral areas.

Otzma Yehudit leader Itamar Ben Gvir has said that without his party’s ability to make its mark in these regions, he will not join the government forming under Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu.

Pervasive lawlessness is a longstanding problem in the Negev, where police presence is limited and at times ineffective. Cohen, a Negev resident and leader of the Negev Rescue Committee which recently was thwarted from raising a vigilante civilian militia, called fellow residents “modern pioneers who alone are building on the land of their forefathers” in “a vast no man’s land.”

Jewish Negev residents have particularly butted heads with local Bedouin.

“I will not accept any situation in which women are sexually harassed on the streets of the land of our forefathers exclusively for being Jewish,” he says.

“The Negev has even deteriorated into a situation where business owners pay a head tax, a modern tax, a protection tax in order to survive the day of their labor,” Cohen adds.

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