Bitter row over tree-planting scheme threatens to collapse Israel’s fragile government

Mansour Abbas, the leader of the Ra’am party propping up Mr Bennett’s fragile majority, has threatened to stop voting with the government unless the tree-planting stops, which risks collapsing the coalition.

“I can’t continue to live with this,” Mr Abbas told Israeli broadcaster Channel 12. “I can’t continue like this. I have absorbed more difficult things in the past, but when they shoot straight in my chest I can’t stand it anymore. The Negev is Ra’am.”

In June, Ra’am made history as it became the first Arab political party to enter an Israeli coalition government, but the party is increasingly at odds with Mr Bennett’s right-wing Yamina movement.

The stand-off could potentially embolden Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party, which reportedly sent a delegation to take part in the tree-planting scheme on Tuesday.

Bibi’s bid for power

Mr Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving prime minister, is said to be eager to collapse the coalition and return to power as soon as possible.

Yair Lapid, the government’s centrist foreign minister, appeared to back Ra’am in the dispute as he called for the tree planting scheme to be suspended.

“The State of Israel needs to plan trees on state land, but we don’t have to damage the livelihoods of the residents of the area,” he said. 

He also pointed out that Mr Netanyahu himself had agreed to postpone tree-planting in 2020, despite his party now using the row as a means of attacking the government.

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