Cabinet to advance plan to recognize Bedouin villages

Israel’s cabinet is expected Sunday to begin advancing a bill to regularize unrecognized Bedouin communities in the Negev, after a similar bill got stalled in the last Knesset due to a heated rift between the right and left.

The cabinet will ask the Ministerial Committee on Legislation to enable the proposed legislation to move ahead from the point it reached under the previous government.

Agricultural Minster Uri Ariel, under whose purview the Bedouin population falls, is expected to push significant changes in the existing plan after consultations with the Bedouin over the next six months. Ariel was considered one of the strongest opponents to the bill in the previous Knesset. “The issue of Bedouin settlement is a national task … and it must be clearly said that the passing of time works against everyone,” said Ariel. “I will bring this bill to the broadest possible public hearing in cooperation with all the leaders of the Bedouin community including mayors and the leadership of the unrecognized villages.”

Ariel is also expected to advance a law to cut bureaucratic red tape regarding legal construction in recognized Bedouin communities. In addition to the matter of the unrecognized villages, the Prawer plan also includes an aspect of resolving the dispute between the Bedouin and the state about land ownership. Only the resolution of this dispute will make it possible to allocate land for the establishment of communities.

The Prawer plan calls for the unrecognized villages to be recognized if possible, but only in areas allocated for this purpose in district masterplans, and according to planning rules that restrict the size of the community in a way that does not allow for the efficient establishment of infrastructure.

Human rights groups and some representatives of the Bedouin community in the Negev say that the new arrangement does not allow for recognition of all the unrecognized communities and will involve the eviction of tens of thousands of Bedouin from their homes.


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