Land of Israel Caucus in the Negev
Land of Israel Caucus in the Negev Spokesperson

The Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus conducted a tour of the Negev on Thursday in order to show MKs up-close the extent of illegal construction in the region, mostly by Bedouin Arabs.

Among the MKs on the tour were Yoav Kish, Miki Zohar, and Amir Ohana (Likud), Orit Strook, Itamar Ben Gvir, Simha Rotman (Religious Zionism), and Yomtov Kalfon (Yamina) – the only member of the coalition to participate.

Arutz Sheva spoke with MK Kalfon, who noted that, “I represent twenty percent of the Yamina party, headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. This tour of the Negev was organized four days ago, and so we shouldn’t be too quick to condemn MKs who aren’t here but would have liked to come.

“The Land of Israel Caucus is very important to me, and I joined it on the very day that I took my oath of allegiance to the Knesset,” he added. “This has nothing to do with opposition-coalition politicking. Eretz Yisrael transcends politics, and I left France and came here because I wanted to live in Eretz Yisrael.”

Kalfon noted that, “Today, we’re touring the Negev, a region that is subject to international or internal Israeli dispute, and I’m delighted to be here as a representative of the coalition. We heard what Regional Council head Omer Pini Badash had to say, and we also listened to a speech by Regavim, and we learned about the challenges faced by the government and our responsibility for the Bedouin community and the Negev as a whole.”

Is there a power vacuum in the Negev?

“Absolutely. But let’s not get confused about this. The situation today is the outcome of years during which successive governments and the Likud party failed to deal with the issue—with terrible results. A huge number of illegal homes have been built; land has been taken over; and the entire issue has been ignored. I very much hope that the new government under Naftali Bennett will regulate what Netanyahu and the Likud party neglected.”

There are those in the Likud and Religious Zionism parties who say that Bennett has sold out the Negev to the United Arab List.

“I’m familiar with this particular criticism, and I don’t buy it. Bennett thinks outside the box, and he believes that we have to know how to collaborate with the UAL in order to restore order to the Negev. We also have to remember that the Bedouins here are Israeli citizens and whatever we do has to have the result of connecting them with the State of Israel—not just physically but also ideologically, in order to prevent other entities from gaining the upper hand here.”

You’re the only MK here from the government; how do you get on with the opposition MKs on the tour?

“I have a great relationship with them, for the meantime. [Yoav] Kish and [Orit] Strook, who head the lobby, said that the purpose of the caucus is to advance the interests of Eretz Yisrael and protect the Land, and I concur with them. I hope very much that more MKs—both from the coalition and the opposition—will participate in the coming tour.”

Also participating in today’s tour was MK Itamar Ben Gvir, who said, “Here today, I continue to monitor the situation in the Negev and particularly the illegal Arab construction, and I heard about the lack of governance in the region. The Negev has been neglected for years, and now the government has sold it out to the Bedouins; it’s official. I will continue to come here and fight against illegal construction, and against the protection rackets run by Bedouins who target Jews living and working here.”