Clashes Erupt Between Police and Druze Demonstrators in the North

At least three police officers were hurt during a protest against a gas pipeline near Yokneam.

Violent clashes erupted on Tuesday between police and Druze demonstrators near Yokneam in the north.

The demonstrators, from Daliat al-Carmel and Isfiya, were protesting against the placement of a gas pipeline and had received police approval to march in the area.

Eyewitnesses reported that at least three police officers were injured, including one with a broken nose, and that a number of arrests were made.

During the course of the procession, however, youths attempted to interfere with the work of a tractor. Some of the demonstrators also blocked Highway 70.

Local Druze and municipality officials are trying to reach an arrangement with police that would end the clashes and reopen the highway.

The pipeline being extended would supply the Haifa Bay area with natural gas.

Daliat al-Carmel Mayor told Haaretz that there was an outline of an agreement between the government and the town's residents, however the minute they attempt to implement the agreement, the local land owners have many unanswered questions.
"The people don’t know what part of their property they will lose, who will compensate them and how much compensation they will receive," the mayor said.

"I call on all the relevant officials to come to the Carmel and hold negotiations with the residents and the property owners," he added. "Unfortunately, until now we have only encountered obtuseness, which could lead to bloodshed."

Knesset MK Hana Sweid (Hadash) blamed the clashes on the government's insistence on placing the gas line before an agreement had been reached on how affected land owners would be compensated. He said that the government is obligated to compensate these land owners with alternative lands.

Last September, Eyal Gabai, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, set off a war of words when, while discussing the difficulties of overcoming Druze opposition to various state infrastructure projects, said that the Druze had "become a word that sows terror throughout all government ministries."

"They say, '[The Druze] have a licensed weapon, and that they are not to be dealt with,'" Gabai said.

Gabai's comments touched off a wave of condemnations from Arab lawmakers.

"Druze do not sow terror," United Arab List-Ta'al MK Taleb a-Sanaa said in reponse to Gabai. "Rather they are a victim of a government policy that has sown terror against them for years, against their history, their identity, and their right to equality and social justice."

"They are given much verbal sympathy as well as discrimination and oppression in every aspect of government policy."