Applying Israeli Sovereignty – in the Negev?

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the assertion of sovereignty, regaining security control is most certainly high on the list.

By Jeff Daube

This past year much of the oxygen in the room was sucked up by the conversation about applying Israeli sovereignty in Judea-Samaria. So why are we suddenly talking about applying sovereignty in the Negev? Isn’t the Negev part of undisputed post-1948 sovereign Israel?

In the political decision-making sense of the word, of course the Negev is part of sovereign Israel. But according to Britannica’s definition, sovereignty also includes the maintenance of order. In that sense, perhaps Israel is not yet totally sovereign in the Negev.

The sad fact is there are elements in the Negev that simply do not recognize the sovereign’s authority and the rule of law. Highly organized brazen and violent criminal gangs often roam the rough terrain of the Negev in state of the art All-terrain Vehicles (ATV) that can easily outmaneuver and outrace the IDF, Border Police and National Police 4-wheel drive patrol vehicles. With impunity they engage in violent intimidation, destruction of property, theft, protection rackets, cannabis cultivation, drug smuggling, trafficking, wild driving and gunfire.

Nothing is off limits. They even enter IDF bases and steal military equipment in active fire zones.

Most residents of communities from which these gangs emanate, like Bir Hadaj, aka the crime capital of the Negev, actually yearn for enhanced law enforcement and even characterize the lack of an effective police presence as a form of racism. The communities, farms and kibbutzim victimized and terrorized by these gangs are also in despair and have requested a more robust police presence to ensure their security.

Enter Yatar. At the request of the military and law enforcement in the area, Yatar set up bases with the Border Police – for instance, at Ramat HaNegev – and, using its ATVs, started patrolling some of the worst crime-plagued areas, including the Egyptian border with the IDF’s Paran Brigade. Yatar’s ATVs were the game equalizers that leveled the security playing field.

Imagine the gangs’ surprise when Yatar Can Am ATVs flew over sand dunes in hot pursuit. One of the gang drivers was so shocked he lost control, crashed and totaled his $75,000 ATV.

Security experts often talk about Israel’s need to retain its QME (Qualitative Military Edge) given the quantitative edge enjoyed by its regional adversaries. Yatar now provides the IDF and Border Police forces in the Negev with a different kind of QME (Qualitative Maneuverability Edge). Recognizing this, the IDF has asked Yatar to acquire additional ATVs and increase patrols, something presently beyond Yatar’s capability and resources.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to the assertion of sovereignty, regaining security control is most certainly high on the list. Yatar and its dedicated cadre of 250 elite volunteers will continue to do whatever it can to ensure the safety and security of all Israeli citizens. If that means helping to affirm Israel’s sovereignty in the Negev, all the better.

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