A bill launched in the Knesset on Monday calls for the government to set aside
special solar energy allocations for the Negev Beduin, who thus far have largely
been excluded from partaking in the industry due to land disputes.
goals of the bill, sponsored by MKs Einat Wilf (Independence) and Ghaleb
Majadele (Labor), include eliminating discrimination against the Beduin
population in government policy, encouraging the Beduin to compromise with the
government on their land ownership claims and promoting entrepreneurship and
economic growth and development in the population.
The bill also aims to
reduce the unemployment rate in the Beduin sector as well as promote their
inclusion in the “Negev solar revolution,” according to the bill’s
“It’s a great bill because I believe that we really need to begin
to think positively about how we can create modern working opportunities for the
Beduin,” Wilf told The Jerusalem Post on Monday night. “This is just a classic
They live by and large in the Negev, this is where we need to build
the future solar field and we are also tying it to incentives to settle various
land disputes with the state.”
In addition to Wilf and Majadele, official
supporters of the bill include: Labor MKs Eitan Cabel, Amir Peretz, Binyamin
Ben-Eliezer, Avishay Braverman, Daniel Ben-Simon and Isaac Herzog; Meretz MKs
Zehava Gal-On, Ilan Gilon and Nitzan Horowitz; Kadima MKs Akram Hasson and
Shloma Molla; United Arab List-Ta’al MKs Masud Gnaim, Ibrahim Sarsour, Ahmed
Tibi and Taleb a-Sanaa; Hadash MKs Afo Agbaria and Muhammad Barakei; Balad MKs
Said Nafa and Jamal Zahalka; and Independence MK Shakib Shanan.
passed, the bill would require the Public Utility Authority (PUA) to allocate a
quota specifically designated for the construction of solar facilities on Beduin
lands – lands that have been legally agreed upon in a compromise between the
government and the Beduin landowner, according to the text of the bill. The
quota should amount to no less than 10 percent – or 30 megawatts – of the
current medium-sized field solar cap, the same amount designated to Judea and
Samaria, the bill says. Meanwhile, the Energy and Water Minister would be
responsible for overseeing the implementation of the bill.
government clearly aims to promote the production of renewable energy, as per a
series of government decisions that have already occurred on the matter, the
bill’s explanation section reads. However, due to preconditions that the PUA
legitimately places – which call for applicants to prove their connection to the
real estate on which they intend to build – the Beduin population has largely
been unable to procure generation licenses, the text continues.
conflict over land status between the state and the Beduin is ongoing, yet all
the while – as many Negev agricultural owners have jumped at the chance to take
advantage of the new economic opportunities afforded by solar energy – the
Beduin for the most part have not been able to, the bill says.
Decision no. 3707, adopted on September 11, 2011, indicated that the
government would implement a five-year plan to promote economic growth and
development of the Negev Beduin between the years 2012 and 2016, to strengthen
their living conditions and economic situation, the bill continues. The new
bill, according to its text, would certainly be in line with these
While providing employment and entrepreneurship opportunities to
the Negev Beduin, the solar industry would also provide a great incentive for
those members of the population still hesitant or holding off on settling their
land claims, Wilf told the Post.
“I think it’s a really good combination
with a cause that the state supports,” she said. “The state right now is very
interested in high quality employment among the Arab and Beduin
“It’s a really good idea to bring together several important
objectives,” Wilf said.
Before being able to use portions of the solar
quota that the bill would allocate to them, the Beduin entrepreneurs would be
obliged to settle their land disputes according to the rules already established
on the subject.
“It’s not just about handouts, it’s about rewarding a
behavior that is constructive,” Wilf added.
While she doubts that there
will be too many objections to the bill, Wilf acknowledged that she has been
“surprised before,” but she hopes that the bill’s supporters will get it
completely settled before the Knesset recess so that it can be read during the
Two cabinet members from her party, Agriculture Minister
Orit Noked and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon, also have
expressed support for the bill and will help fight for its passage, according to
The first and only Beduin solar field project, an 8- megawatt plot
in the Abu Basma region, was approved for a PUA license after much delay in
February. The $30 million field, on land owned by Haj Musa Tarabin, will be
developed by Arava Power Company, the firm responsible for opening the country’s
first medium-sized solar field at Kibbutz Ketura last June.
to the unusual delays that the Tarabin field faced in receiving approval, its
license arrived after the medium-sized field solar caps were already maxed out –
so it can only be built at the moment with a separate quota, or if other
approved projects drop out, according to Arava Power.
“MKs Wilf and
Majadele, along with their co-sponsors, deserve praise for correcting the
injustice in solar policy that has kept the Beduin from participating in
Israel’s solar revolution,” Arava Power president Yosef Abramowitz told the
Post. “No Beduin applications for solar licenses within the existing limited
caps can build solar fields.
These are the Beduin who have made their
peace and compromise with the state on land, yet they are still denied equal
access to solar benefits.”
Abramowitz continued: “All who want Israel to
go green and who care about social justice should support this bill.”