The hotly debated “Prawer bill,” regulating Beduin settlements in the Negev
narrowly passed in its first Knesset reading Monday, with 43 in favor and 40
The discussion of the bill was marked by loud arguments and
demonstrations by Arab MKs, who began the debate by walking out when Welfare
Minister Meir Cohen (Yesh Atid) presented the legislation.
“This is not a
bill, it’s a strangling,” MK Jamal Zahalka (Balad) said as he left the
Soon after, while MK Muhammad Barakei (Hadash) argued against the
bill, Culture and Sport Minister Limor Livnat (Likud) shouted out that he is
“obnoxious,” and Barakei told her to shut her mouth. Then, Barakei tore up a
copy of the legislation, leading Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein to say he will
file a complaint against him to the Knesset Ethics Committee.
“This is a
Mark of Cain on the forehead of anyone who supports the bill,” said MK Ahmed
Tibi (UAL-Ta’al) as he poured water on the document. “This is a usurping bill!
It expels people from their lands and homes for the second and third time after
the tragedy of 1948 [Israel’s establishment].”
MK Zehava Gal-On (Meretz)
took a more diplomatic approach, saying that she is sure former Likud minister
Benny Begin meant well in drafting the plan – on which the bill is based – but
does not recognize the Beduin’s historical rights.
“You need to praise
this law, and [the coalition] should oppose it, because it gives the Beduin what
the courts wouldn’t,” said MK Ayelet Shaked (Bayit Yehudi). Calling the Beduin
“squatters,” Shaked said that a sovereign state cannot allow illegal settlements
built by Jews or Arabs, and when illegal towns are built they must be
MK Meir Sheetrit (Hatnua), who led negotiations with the
Beduin on land issues during Ehud Olmert’s premiership, expressed careful
optimism about the bill: “For the first time, this law creates an opening for an
agreement. It’s unfortunate that people are so angry. The goal here is to
regulate [the land] and find the best solution.”
Earlier Monday, the
coalition almost stopped the vote from taking place, when it was discovered by
Bayit Yehudi that the draft submitted to the Knesset differed from the one
agreed upon by the party and the Prime Minister’s Office. After several hours of
negotiations, the Prime Minister’s Office and Begin agreed to reinstate a clause
limiting the timetable in which Beduin can lay claim on land.
Prawer-Begin plan calls for legalizing around 63 percent of Beduin land claims.
It has drawn opposition from both the Right, which argued that it would give
away too much and not solve the problem, and the Left, which claims that it is
not generous enough.
The legislation follows a plan proposed by Begin in
2012 that calls for regulating the land of the Bedouin. It was based on a
previous plan drawn up by a team headed by Ehud Prawer in 2011, which in turn
was based on recommendations of a committee chaired by former Supreme Court
justice Eliezer Goldberg. Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit
Yehudi) came to an agreement last month with Begin, who has been responsible for
putting together the plan for resolving the Beduin issue.
The first, main
demand in the redrafted proposal was an agreement to draw up a specific map that
includes exact details of the plan, which delineates the areas that would be
given to Beduin and those reserved for the state or Jewish
Second, a ministerial committee headed by the prime minister
will monitor the implementation of the plan. Third, the timetable would be
shortened from five years to three and finally, a Jewish settlement would be
established on the outskirts of Arad in the Negev.
NGOs supporting the
Beduin land claims argue the government should agree to a solution with the
Beduin and recognize their settlements to insure their rights, and oppose
expulsion or forced relocation.
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, the
director of the headquarters for the economic and community development of the
Negev Beduin in the Prime Minister’s Office told The Jerusalem Post last week
that a legal solution is required to solve the Beduin issue.