Mansour Abbas
Mansour Abbas Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas has, in recent days, been at the center of a political uproar over the JNF planting project in the Negev. A day after issuing an ultimatum to the coalition over the tree planting, Abbas was interviewed by Channel 12 News on Wednesday evening and claimed, "We suffer every day in order to be partners in the coalition."

Abbas' remarks follow Ra'am's boycott of the Knesset plenum in protest of the planting in the Negev on land that the Bedouin are claiming ownership of. In recent days, Abbas has stood firm on the issue, calling for an end to the plantings and the promotion of regulation of Bedouin settlements. He also patrolled the area and joined the protesters.

"My presence gave people an address through which their pain and demands could be conveyed," Abbas told Channel 12 News. "Unfortunately, we had to finish it on the first day and not the third. We have no right to exist without the Negev and our loyalty is there."

In the last two days, riots have broken out in the Negev due to the planting, and young Bedouin have thrown rocks at cars and police stations, and even placed rocks on the train tracks and caused it to stop. Abbas had a message for those people: "Even if you are right - it is impossible to understand the violence, the burning of cars and the throwing of rocks. It weakens the just struggle of the young people, who are fighting for their livelihood."

"Where was the Likud for 12 years? You did not give a solution to governance. Even during Netanyahu's time, they started planting and stopped it. They asked me to meet with the JNF, we only met once, it wasn’t serious. We need to detach the political issue and provide a solution to the Negev - recognition and regulation. Those who want to bury their head in the sand and not give solutions will lose."

The Ra’am chairman also had a message for his coalition partners. "Everyone accepts difficult situations, and our partners know we have tremendous absorptive capacity - but there comes a point where it has to be said that it can no longer be tolerated. Once the residents of the Negev and their livelihoods are harmed, we can no longer endure this. We have come a long way, and we suffer day in and day out in order to be a partner in the coalition and to maintain this credibility and partnership."