The government approved on Sunday a set of recommendations for the regulation of Bedouin settlements in the Negev, thereby recognizing the legality of Bedouin settlments and offering monetary compensation in case they are relocated.
Sources who are familiar with the process said the proposal, which was brought forth by Minister Benny Begin, stipulated that most Bedouin towns were to be recognized as legal.
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressd the Bedouins' illegal encampments in various areas in the Negev, and said that regulating the issue would serve as a "historic decision" that will put an end to illegal construction in the Negev.
"Israel's pervious administrations have avoided dealing with this issue, but this brave decision will allow for the continued development of the Negev, which benefits the area's entire population," he said.
An unrecognized village (Photo: Lowshot)
In September 2011 the government approved the Prawer report, a NIS 1.2 billion (roughly $320,000) plan to expand existing Bedouin towns and build new ones as per the community's needs. But the plan was received with ambivalence both by the Bedouin population and by rightist opponents.
The proposal's goal was to bring about an end to Bedouins' ownership claims over Negev lands, all the while offering a compensation plan and practical solutions that would appease the Bedouins and bring an end to illegal construction.
The proposal dealt directly with ownership claims filed between 1971-1979, in the wake of attempts to regulate land settlement in the northern Negev.
Bedouin settlement in the Negev (Photo: Roee Idan)
According to the Prawer report, a strict five-year timeframe is set for regulating currently settled lands, demanding that land not imparted to its owner within that period of time be transferred to state ownership.
In comparison, the current proposal recommends that every person claiming ownership be compensated with land at least half the size of the land he or she is claiming, living on or working on, on condition that the land is not currently state owned.
Blasted from left and right
Head of the Council of Unrecognized Villages, Ibrahim Al-Valkili, said: "I would prefer they amend the current proposal instead of authorizing it as is. There are many articles that we're uncomfortable with.
"Our position was that we should be partners in this process, as it deals with land, compensation and moving people from one place to another," he said.
Al-Valkili criticized the proposal and warned that it does not benefit the Bedouin residents.
"We want the conditions improved. We don't accept the outlined proposal. We're all for regulating the unrecognized villages but only in cooperation and coordination with the people living in them."
Umm al-Hiran village in the Negev (Photo: Hertzel Yosef)
MK Talab El-Sana, head of the Arab Democratic Party, which runs with other Arab parties on the joint ticket of the United Arab List-Ta'al, attacked the government's proposal as well, saying that "Government members are acting like thieves in the night to okay the dangerous proposal, which ousts the Bedouins from hundreds of thousands of dunams of land and uproots numerous communities."
Criticism was also sounded from the Right, which claimed that the law was being pushed through in haste.
According to a source within the rightist Regavim organization, "Even if Minister Begin is concerned that there will not be a majority for his proposal in the next government, he should respect the democratic process and not use the furor over coalition negotiations as a smoke screen to pass a law that will bind the next government to his positions."
The Prime Minister's Office said that the recommendations offered by Minister Begin were formulated a number of months earlier and their "presentation before the government was put on standby in light of the elections."
According to the PMO statement, "The prime minister decided the recommendations would be brought before the government after the election, and now, accordingly, they are being presented."
The statement added that PMO's current position was well in line with the Attorney General's directives.
Hanaan Alsana, a Bedouin rights activist from the Negev said: "The proposal lacks principles of justice, equality and human rights. We see struggles for social justice all around us, but we've set up our tents back in 1948 and demand our own social justice."
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