Druze leaders on Thursday issued a demand to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to freeze the planned construction of wind turbines in the northern Golan Heights, after the violent clashes between members of Israel's Druze community and police. If their demands are not met, they said in a letter, the protests would continue and even increase.
Thousands protested on Wednesday claiming the government's plans to establish a renewable field of 21 wind turbines, would destroy nature and their lands. At least 27 people were injured, including 17 members of the police, five suffered serious wounds and six protesters were arrested and are expected in court on Thursday, where the police will request their remand.
Netanyahu met with the Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif on Wednesday and agreed to halt construction until after the Muslim Eid al Adha - the Feast of Sacrifice which begins next week but he also warned Israel would not tolerate the violation of law.
National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who was behind the decision to advance the planned construction of wind turbines said Israel must not give in to violence.
"I ordered the police to carry out operation "Golan wind," after it was delayed due to the threats of a small number of people," he said. "This is privately owned land purchased legally and is a project that will benefit Israel. We must exert our governance," he said.
Rafik Halabi, mayor of the Druze village of Daliyat al-Karmel said in an interview with Ynet Radio on Wednesday that within the community, "there is very great rage. We are on the verge of an intifada in Druze villages in Israel."
"The State of Israel does not understand that the Druze villages are in a much more difficult situation, he said. "We are on the verge of an intifada, you just don't understand or recognize what is happening here. A week ago, we spoke with the head of the Shin Bet, Ronen Bar, and he knows, as does the government, that there is tremendous anger over what is happening here as a result of the Kaminitz Law," he said referring to a law passed by a previous Netanyahu led coalition in 2017, to amend Israel’s Building and Planning law, giving the government increased enforcement powers including on demolition and eviction orders, carried out predominately in Arab and Druze communities.
"There is the State of Israel for Jews and there is the State of Israel for non-Jews and, unfortunately, the Druze have fallen victim to discrimination in recent years," said Halabi.
Sheikh Tarif said he warned government officials about the implications of the wind turbine project without negotiations and coordination with the residents. "The message fell on deaf ears," he said.
"The recent events and protests are an accumulation of years of anger toward a discriminatory policy in various areas, especially in matters of land, planning and construction. A demonstration is a legitimate and fundamental right of citizens. At the same time, I urge members of the community to exercise this right without disturbing the general public and without blocking major roads. I ask the police to exercise restraint as they have done in other places in the country," Sheikh Tarif said referring not only to the Kaminitz law but also to the 2018 Nation-State Bill which was seen as discriminatory to non-Jewish citizens of the country and enraged the community, whose members serve in the military often reaching senior ranks.