Gov’t to recognize illegal Bedouin villages
Proposal for regulating Bedouin settlements accepted; majority of illegal villages to be recognized, end to ownership claims; Bedouins say proposal ‘uproots numerous communities’
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.
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 existingBedouin 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.”
Gov’t approves plan for disputed Beduin lands
By YONAH JEREMY BOB
The government on Sunday approved a plan for dealing with the issue of disputed Beduin communities in the Negev as well as for opening certain areas to new settlements by a vote of 16-3-1, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
In what the Prime Minister’s Office characterized as “a compromise” which was “vital,” 62 percent of land claimed by Beduin will remain under their control, while 38% will be recognized as state land and any Beduin structures which remain on it will be demolished if necessary, Israel Radio reported.
The government decision both stipulates that those Beduin being relocated will receive compensation, and lays the groundwork for new Jewish settlements in the Negev.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “The goal of this historic decision is to put an end to the spread of illegal building by Negev Beduin and lead to the better integration of the Beduin into Israeli society. All governments have avoided dealing with this issue, but this brave decision will facilitate the continued development and prosperity of the Negev, for the benefit of all its residents.”
The press release said that the Beduin have five years to accept the plan before their claims to land become null and void.
Negative reactions to the decision were swift from both sides of the debate.
On one side, critics say that Israel’s modern way of life should not be imposed on the Beduin more than they wish and that it is unjust to take away their historic lands regardless of how poorly some of their land claims may be documented.
On the other side, the plan is viewed as too generous, rewarding the Beduin for building “illegally” without permits and for being unwilling to agree to any boundaries.
An Israel Radio report said that a Beduin representative opposed any arrangement other than full government recognition of all of their communities, with no forced relocation.
In expectation of the decision, Adalah representative Dr. Tavat Abu Ras said that the details on the ground were tricky and that in the end the Beduins would “still lose most of their land in return for symbolic recognition of a few villages.”
The head of the Omer council said that it showed “that when you press, you receive,” suggesting the Beduin had protested loudly enough that the government had caved in to most of their demands, said the report.
Ironically, the government decision came a day after the announcement that the High Court of Justice had rejected a petition by Regavim to scrap that very decision for giving up too much land which could be used for future Jewish settlement.
The High Court rejected Regavim’s petition largely based on the fact that at the time of both the filing and the hearing, there had been no official government decision that could be opposed.
Nevertheless, the High Court’s reasoning left wide open the possibility of filing a new petition.
There is also a possibility that the Beduin communities and some of the human rights groups fighting on their side will also petition the High Court against the government decision.
The decision also said NIS 1.2 billion would be invested in revitalizing Beduin communities.
The Jerusalem Report contributed to this story.