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Druze leaders demand Netanyahu halt wind-farm project

The appeal comes after two days of violent protests in the northern Golan Heights.

Druze protest against the construction of a wind farm near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Druze protest against the construction of a wind farm near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

The leaders of Israel’s Druze community sent a letter on Thursday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling for a halt to the construction of a wind farm in the Golan Heights.

The Druze community sees the project as an encroachment on its land.

Unless its demands are met, the protests against the project will continue following two days of violent demonstrations that on Wednesday left 27 people injured, five seriously, in clashes between police and local residents.

Seventeen of the injured were police officers. Six protesters were arrested; they were expected in court on Thursday.

Police stand guard during a protest against the construction of a wind farm near Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, June 21, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

“In the state of affairs that has arisen, the heads of the Druze community see it fit that an immediate freeze of the work and the exit of police forces from the construction site be ordered until the end of Eid al-Adha,” the Druze leaders wrote, referring to the holiday observed by Druze and Muslims that this year runs from June 27 until July 1.

“We expect the government to answer in the affirmative to this request and to allow the members of the community to mark the holiday period calmly and peacefully,” they continued.

The letter was also addressed to National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi.

It followed an emergency meeting of Druze leaders held in Kafr Yasif in the Western Galilee overnight between Wednesday and Thursday.

في أعقاب اجتماع طارئ دعا إليه اللّيلة سماحة الشّيخ موفق طريف الرّئيس الرّوحيّ بمشاركة قيادة الطّائفة الدّرزيّة:مطالبة…

Posted by ‎فضيلة الرّئيس الرّوحي للطّائفة الدرزيّة، الشّيخ موفق طريف‎ on Wednesday, June 21, 2023

On Wednesday, Netanyahu met with Shaykh Mowafaq, the spiritual leader of the Druze community in Israel. They were joined by Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Ronen Bar and other senior officials.

“There are days when we must state what is self-evident: The State of Israel is a nation of laws. All citizens of Israel are obligated to obey the law,” Netanyahu said in a statement following the meeting. “We will not allow disturbances either on the Golan Heights or in Judea and Samaria.

“I give full backing to the Israel Police and the security forces in their efforts to maintain law and order. We will not accept any provocations to the police or the security forces in these places or anywhere else. We are a nation of laws,” the prime minister said.

On Thursday, Tarif said that the work had been temporarily stopped.

However, work resumed again on Thursday, but without any riots seen as of the afternoon. Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai did not recommend a work stoppage until after the holiday, the police clarified.

“Contrary to erroneous publications, the Israel Police did not order to stop the work on the construction of the turbines in the Golan Heights. Such a decision is of the political level only,” the statement read.

Ben-Gvir opposes the freezing of the project and will meet with Druze leaders in July, it was reported.

The Enlight Renewable Energy company announced the groundbreaking for the $350 million Genesis Wind project in June, which is to include 38 advanced wind turbines.

The company threatened to sue the state for billions of shekels if work on the project does not proceed.

“The leaders of the opposition, who act against the law and with severe violence, harm all the residents of the area,” the company said.

“To date, we have already invested tens of millions of shekels into the project for the well-being of the residents in local tax payments, job creation, payments to the landowners and clearing mines from the extensive land that will be returned to the residents for agricultural cultivation after decades,” it continued.

“In addition, the project is expected to invest many hundreds of millions of shekels for the well-being of the residents during its construction and its operation in the next 20 years. It is important to emphasize that there is no basis for the claims of the opponents regarding the company’s violation of the residents’ rights to the land. Rather the opposite is true,” said Enlight Renewable Energy.

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