Arab lawmakers asked US Secretary of State John Kerry to help stop the
Prawer-Begin Beduin resettlement bill Thursday.
Meanwhile, MK Zvulun
Kalfa (Bayit Yehudi) called for the Knesset to immediately halt debates on the
bill, because the government, he said, was hiding information from
UAL-Ta’al MKs Ahmed Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsour, Masud Gnaim and Taleb Abu
Arar, a Beduin who lives in the Negev, called the plan “discriminatory and [a]
violation of international law.” They quoted UN and Amnesty International
officials who condemned the bill, and asked for Kerry’s “immediate intervention
to halt the proposed plan… designed to expel thousands of Palestinian citizens
in Israel from their existing homes.”
The Prawer-Begin bill is a
five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement
in the South. The Beduin in question are tens of thousands of Israeli citizens,
about 0.5% of whom serve in the IDF, who are scattered in villages that the
government does not recognize throughout the Negev. The plan aims for a
compromise solution that would legalize 63 percent of the claimed
Beduin and their supporters oppose the bill because they say the
legislation would result in up to 40,000 Beduin losing their land, though the
government hasn’t provided specific details of who would get what land in the
Opponents on the Right criticize the bill as being too generous,
saying that the state is giving away land for free, land that the Beduin could
not prove to be theirs in court.
“Since developing this plan in 2009,
Israel has destroyed more than 200 homes belonging to Palestinians in the Negev.
Simply put, this plan constitutes ethnic cleansing. We seek your urgent
attention in this matter,” the UAL-Ta’al MKs wrote to Kerry.
Thursday, Kalfa wrote a letter to Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein demanding that
Knesset Interior Committee meetings and all votes on the bill be frozen until
the government agrees to greater transparency.
Kalfa said he had
uncovered a July 2013 agreement between Doron Almog, director of the Directorate
for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Beduin in the Prime
Minister’s Office, and the Bayit Yehudi-controlled Construction and Housing
Ministry that Almog did not report to the Knesset Interior Committee.
response to an inquiry from The Jerusalem Post, Almog’s office said: “Contrary
to what is claimed, the existence of the memorandum of understanding mentioned
in your inquiry was not concealed and its principles were already published in
the past. It will be submitted to the Internal Affairs Committee in its
deliberations on the law which is so vital for developing the Negev for all its
The agreement lists which Beduin towns will be expanded,
which new ones will be founded for Beduin and for Jews and what land will be
given to Beduin demanding ownership. It also includes a map diagramming the
The document, which Almog sent to Construction and Housing
Minister Uri Ariel, bears the signatures of Almog and then-National Security
Council chairman Yaakov Amidror, and was sent before the committee began
discussing the Prawer-Begin Bill last month.
The details of the document
are similar to the terms of an agreement in May between Bayit Yehudi and the
Prime Minister’s Office that the party’s ministers would vote in favor of the
plan in cabinet meetings that took place then.
Bayit Yehudi sources would
not confirm or comment on the similarities and whether Kalfa’s “discovery” was
meant to insert the party’s agreement into the text of the bill. One party
source suggested that Kalfa’s complaint was a delay tactic on legislation with
which the party is uncomfortable.
“This is an ugly move made behind the
backs of the Interior Committee members,” Kalfa wrote. “It cannot be that
there’s a strategic discussion that is important on a national lever and the
committee members are not exposed to, or are even intentionally kept away from
the relevant information related to the legislation.”
Kalfa pointed out
that one of the important roles of the Knesset is to supervise and review
“One of the central pillars of democracy is the
independence and freedom of the legislative branch, and any attempt to harm that
is inappropriate and must be condemned,” the Bayit Yehudi MK added.
Ben Solomon contributed to this report.