A far-right parliamentarian in Israel is reported to be planning a significant security operation against Palestinians in the Negev. The area is home to some 300,000 Palestinians of whom only a third are said to hold Israeli citizenship; the vast majority live in towns and villages “unrecognised” by the occupation state, which many pre-date. Having survived the ethnic cleansing started in 1948 by Jewish terrorist groups, the local Palestinians remained in the rural south of historic Palestine.
Itamar Ben-Gvir is the incoming Minister of National Security in what is being described as the most extreme far-right government in Israel’s history of extreme governments. He is reported by Haaretz as planning on transferring a considerable number of Border Police companies from the West Bank to the Negev to “strengthen governance in the south”. In his new position, the 46-year-old devotee of Israel’s illegal settler movement will be able to increase the crackdown on Palestinians in the Negev and in the occupied West Bank.
Although the two areas of historic Palestine have different status under international law, with the Negev considered to be part of Israel and the West Bank to be occupied by the Zionist state, the indigenous Palestinian communities in both territories face the illegal, ever-growing expansion of Israeli settlements.
Palestinian villages in the Negev are under constant threat of demolition to clear the way for Jew-only settlements. Earlier this month, the village of Al-Araqeeb was demolished for the 210th time. Restrictions imposed on Israel’s non-Jewish citizens prevent Palestinians from expanding their homes and villages and those that are “unrecognised” are denied any infrastructure or support from the government.
Ben-Gvir is set to take control of the Negev and Galilee Ministry, an outcome that could see a rapid increase in the demolition of Palestinian villages and the construction of new settlements. Palestinian villages that survive demolition are likely to find themselves encircled by towns reserved for Jews only. The far-right MK has a record of anti-Arab incitement, and is eager to intensify enforcement efforts against what Israel calls “illegal construction”.
Signalling that he wants to bring his extreme brand of politics to the Negev as well as the occupied West Bank, Ben-Gvir has warned that his six-seat party will not join the emerging government without getting control of the Ministry for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee. Establishing settlements beyond Israel’s urban centres is a major goal of the Israeli far-right religious bloc.