Progress in finding solutions for improved quality of life for Bedouin Communities

However a number of Bedouin communities are no longer nomadic, and with regard to those that are, Ariel is hoping to find a mutually agreed-upon solution.

July 6, 2015 15:47
3 minute read.
Reuven Rivlin

President Rivlin hosts Beduin regional heads with Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development. (photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel, who is also in charge of the Authority for the Regularization of Beduin Villages in the Negev, and members of the Forum of Beduin Local Authorities met with President Reuven Rivlin on Monday at the President’s Residence to seek solutions for Beduin settlement and community services.

Ariel is taking his mission seriously. Soon after his appointment, he toured Beduin settlements in the Negev to learn first hand about the problems of the Beduin population and what their priorities are.

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“We’re not doing any favors for Beduin citizens,” he told Rivlin. “We’re working toward giving Beduin citizens what is rightfully theirs.”

Beduin issues had been raised the previous day at a meeting that Rivlin had with journalists reporting for the Arabic-language media. Rivlin told them that, while the Israeli authorities are aware of the services lacking in Beduin communities, it is difficult to do anything about them, because the Beduin are intrinsically nomads. Without permanent settlement, there is no point to having permanent schools, hospitals, and other community services.

However, a number of Beduin communities are no longer nomadic, and with regard to those that are, Ariel is hoping to find a mutually agreed-upon solution.

He personally sees this challenge as a national priority, he said.

Rivlin congratulated Ariel on the speed with which he had taken up the gauntlet, as well as the steps he has taken to date to facilitate an open line of communication with the Beduin leadership.

He also referred to the report by retired Supreme Court justice Eliezer Goldberg, who headed the committee for the Regularization of Beduin Settlements in the Negev. The report, which was presented nearly seven years ago, recommended that Israel change the legal status of at least 46 Beduin villages in order to stem the perpetuation of an intolerable situation. In presenting the report to the late Zeev Boim, then minister of housing, Goldberg said that the villages should be recognized and their residents should be integrated into Israeli society.

Rivlin said at the meeting on Monday that the Goldberg report contained significant operable recommendations, which unfortunately had not yet been approved.

He said the recommendations are deserving of the widest possible consensus.

At the same time, he said, proposals made by Likud MK Benny Begin should be a starting point. Nearly two years ago, Begin worked on a bill with Ehud Prawer, the head of policy planning in the Prime Minister’s Office, which, like the Goldberg report, called for official recognition and registration of the majority of Beduin settlements and compensation for the residents of 35 unrecognized villages who were to be evacuated from state-owned lands to newly constructed towns.

The bill failed to receive sufficient support in the Knesset and Begin set about reworking it, because he did not want the plight of what he called “the most deprived sector of Israeli society” to continue indefinitely.

Ariel said that time is working against everyone concerned, but that strenuous efforts are being made to reach an understanding and formulate a modus vivendi.

Ariel invited Rivlin to come with him on his next tour of Beduin villages in order to glean a better understanding of why change must come soon.

Members of the Beduin Forum spoke of the differences between recognized and unrecognized settlements, problems of unemployment and lack of income, difficulties in the sharing and dividing of resources as the settlements continue to grow in size, lack of proper educational facilities, and the distress caused by the government’s decisions to demolish houses.

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