Arab Knesset members left the plenum Monday evening in protest of the Praver Bill, which aims to evict illegal Bedouin communities in the Negev. The Arab MKs returned to the plenum only after Welfare Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) finished presenting the bill, but later on some of them tore the bill.
The bill passed the first reading with a narrow 43-40 vote.
Tensions were high in the Knesset even after the bill's presentation. MK Mohammad Barakeh (Hadash) slammed the bill, calling it "racist" and "obscene". Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat, in response, called MK Barakeh "rude" and to which Barakeh retorted "shut your mouth".
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Later on, MK Barakeh tore the bill while on the podium and said it belongs in the trash can of history. MK Afu Aghbaria (Hadash) also tore the bill. MK Ahmad Tibi (United Arab List – Ta'al) performed a similar act: he quoted author Mahmoud Darwish, called that bill "racist" and hypocritical, and poured a glass of water on the podium in reference to an Arabic proverb. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein removed the protesting MKs from the plenum.
MK Tibi pours water on bill (Photo: Courtesy of the Knesset Channel)
MK Ibrahim Sarsur (United Arab List – Ta'al) said he "speaks out of suppressed anger and hope that there would not be such a law. This bill is unfair, immoral, unjust, inhumane. It is a bill that treats a large population as numbers and does not consider their opinion. It is a bill that declares war on the Arab public." MK Sarsur joined the other MKs in tearing the bill and said while being removed from the plenum: "This will not pass. You are liars, frauds and thieves."
'National task of highest order'
The bill for the regularization of Bedouin settlements in the Negev was submitted by the government based on conclusions drawn by a committee headed by retired Justice Eliezer Goldberg, following an examination by former minister Benny Begin.
'Racist bill.' MK Barakeh tears bill (Photo: Courtesy of the Knesset Channel)
The bill addresses the legal aspects of the issue of Bedouin settlements in the Negev, including the regularization of the land claims in the Negev. The State's position is that the existing law does not allow approving such claims, but due to the special social and economic conditions in the Negev, it is proposed to establish special arrangements to solve the issue. The arrangements include compensation in the form of money or land.
The proposal's explanation reads that "the development of the Negev, for the benefit of all of its residents, is a national task of the highest order. In order to realize this national goal to its fullest, the issue of the Bedouin settlement in Negev must first be regularized.
"There are about 200,000 Bedouins in the Negev, and they are equal citizens in Israel, and as such are entitled for a social-economic framework that will enable them to seize the growth opportunities that are available for every citizen in Israel. Efficient measures should be taken in order to give the Bedouins in the Negev the tools to successfully cope with the future's challenges."
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