(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel decided to temporarily withdraw the Prawer bill to resettle Negev Beduin from discussion in the Knesset on Sunday, saying the decision came after talks over the weekend with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Beduin representatives.
“In the future, I will hold extensive public hearings with all parties in order to form a proper plan that would end the current situation,” said Ariel, adding that after that “we will continue to promote the law.”
In response to Ariel’s decision, the Joint List said that Netanyahu should not stop with freezing the Prawer bill, but cancel it and start over by initiating a new dialogue with the Arab public.
The Joint List made an urgent demand to the prime minister on Saturday night to cancel the bill. Within the message to Netanyahu it threatened “war” should the bill be brought forward.
The bill would lead to the state “confiscating” land from Beduin in the South and would “be considered by us as a declaration of war on Arab society and would bring unprecedented popular resistance,” the Arab-Jewish faction said.
“It is time that the state changes its hostile approach toward Arab citizens, seeing them as invaders and the enemy,” the Joint List said, adding that any imposed action should be avoided.
The Prawer bill, an economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement, aims for a compromise solution for tens of thousands of Beduin scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev, legalizing 63 percent of land they claim. But Beduin supporters oppose the bill, saying the legislation would result in up to 40,000 Beduin losing their land.
The Beduin, NGOs and Arab MKs have stated repeatedly that the only solution to the illegal or unrecognized settlements in the Negev is to legalize them.
MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) welcomed the withdrawal of the bill and said that an alternative plan that respects the rights of the Negev Beduin should be considered.
Mass protests, some violent, took place across the country against the controversial bill in 2013.
Ariel has held conversations with a wide range of people, and wants to arrive at a law following a dialogue with local leaders, his office told The Jerusalem Post.
Opponents on the Right criticized the as too generous, saying the state would be giving away land for free, land that Beduin could not prove to be theirs in court.
Amichai Yogev, southern director of the NGO Regavim – which describes itself as seeking to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of the country’s land – told the Post that the Prawer bill should be discarded.
The Arabs are not going to accept any compromise short of an agreement that meets all of their demands and for that reason “we need to stop wasting time debating the Prawer bill and start evacuating dispersed illegal settlements in an orderly fashion,” he said.
“All the debate about Prawer is not solving anything, but only creates noise and fights,” Yogev said. At the same time, the state should help improve conditions and develop legal Beduin settlements, he added.