The cabinet approved a plan on 11 September to resolve land issues in the Negev. The plan emerges from the report of a Prime Minister’s Office team, led by Ehud Prawer, to find a solution to the problem of unrecognised villages in the Negev and implement the recommendations of the Goldberg Committee Report of 2008.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said that: “Given the situation that has been created in the Negev, the time has come to act. This started with the previous government and is being decided upon by us. A decision must be made for the country and for the development of the Negev and its residents, Jews and Bedouin alike.”
Minister Benny Begin has been appointed by the cabinet to coordinate public and Bedouin population comments on the issue, so that feedback can be submitted to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation prior to the tabling of draft legislation in the Knesset.
As part of the plan, which includes financial compensation for people who can prove they have worked the land they lay claim to or offers alternative land, some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin from 13 unrecognised communities will have to move to existing recognised towns.
In light of the increasing gaps between the Israeli Bedouin and Israeli Society as a whole, the cabinet decision also calls for communities and employment centres to be established along three main routes: the Rahat-Be’er Sheva road; the Shoket Junction- Tel Arad road, and the Be’er Sheva-Dimona road. The communities’ boundaries will be determined by existing farming areas plus land to be allocated by the government. The state will allocate NIS 1.2 billion to underpin this economic development - focussing on the advancement of women and youth employment, and the development of supporting infrastructure.
Protesters gathered outside the Prime Minister’s office while the cabinet met, to demonstrate against the Prawer Report for failing to include the Arab Bedouin in the planning process. They argue that its recommendations run contrary to the guidelines for regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev laid out in the Goldberg Report and reaffirmed by Government Decision 4411 of 18 January 2009 - which determined that recognition should be granted to most of the unrecognised villages in the Negev.
An alternative plan, which calls for the legislation of 46 unrecognised villages was also presented on Sunday by the Regional Council of Unrecognised Villages (RCUV), the planning association Bimkom and the Bedouin women’s group Sidreh. The authors of this plan contend that by not involving the Bedouin community in the planning process, the Prawer Report has failed to take into consideration the tribal and family structure behind Bedouin land use patterns. Salem al-Wakil, a spokesman for RCUV stated that: “Our plan is more applicable because it was created from within the Bedouin community but conforms to accepted planning principles in Israel today.”