Ram Ben Barak
Ram Ben BarakYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

The chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid), on Thursday commented on the problem of governance in the Negev.

"What is happening in the Negev is very serious. We should not have done these [JNF] plantings in the first place but now, once they have started, we can plant where we want. It is a very complex and unstable area, it has been neglected for many years. I do not blame the previous government because many governments neglected it and what we see now is the result [of that neglect]," Ben Barak said in an interview with Radio 103FM.

The issue of the planting in the Negev "should be part of a larger normalization," he continued. "In the end the reality today is that they are sitting on something between 800,000 and a million dunams in the Negev. Now because they did not want to confront this problem, not with the Bedouin but with the criticism of people sitting on Bedouin lands, that's why we've gotten to the point where we’re at today. Can we make the change? I believe so, will it be easy? No, it will not be easy."

More than 2,000 people took part on Thursday in a violent demonstration on Highway 31 against the Jewish National Fund's planting of trees in the Negev.

During the protest, the demonstrators threw rocks at police forces. The demonstrators blocked the road and the police pushed them back to the nearby village of Al Atrash.

12 protesters were injured in the clashes, including two who were evacuated by Magen David Adom staff to Soroka Hospital in Be'er Sheva in moderate condition.