"The people will meet the bulldozers with their bodies," Tibi said. "They'll block the bulldozers and not let them through. Unequivocally, this will not come to pass."
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Arab Knesset members left the plenum Monday evening in protest of the bill, which 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". Later on, MK Barakeh tore the bill while on the podium and said it belongs in the trash can of history.
Arab MKs at the Knesset on Monday (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Tibi 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.
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.
Tibi said the bill is "an edict aimed at driving people out of their land. If all the resources that go to the establishment of police headquarters and evictions were channeled to medical centers and schools, things would look different over here. Would such bill pass in Tel Aviv?"
He further added such a law could not be implemented in this day and age. "In 1948 there was the Nakba, the conditions were different. Yet now this is an eviction of people for the second or third time in their lives. This is why it's unattainable – people will protest, riot, prevent the demolition of their homes. The State is robbing the Arab residents of the Negev of their land and what little else they own. The State should stand for its citizens, not against them."
He stopped short of calling for civil disobedience or an intifada, yet made it clear he has "no respect" for the bill. "We will continue working so that the law does not pass. Yesterday we almost succeeded, through democratic means. I don't encourage violent acts, I don't want any blood spilled. We are not interested in confrontation, we rather have it forced upon us. Do you want me to stand at the Knesset podium and say 'guys, this ain't nice'?"
The Praver Bill is considered one of the Netanyahu government's flagship policies, and its vote Monday almost ended in an embarrassment for the coalition; senior Likud officials laid the blame at the door of coalition head Yariv Levin, suggesting he's losing his grip over the MKs.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report
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