The government on Sunday approved a plan for dealing with the issue of disputed
Beduin communities in the Negev as well as for opening certain areas to new
settlements by a vote of 16-3-1, the Prime Minister’s Office said.
what the Prime Minister’s Office characterized as “a compromise” which was
“vital,” 62 percent of land claimed by Beduin will remain under their control,
while 38% will be recognized as state land and any Beduin structures which
remain on it will be demolished if necessary, Israel Radio reported.
government decision both stipulates that those Beduin being relocated will
receive compensation, and lays the groundwork for new Jewish settlements in the
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said, “The goal of this historic
decision is to put an end to the spread of illegal building by Negev Beduin and
lead to the better integration of the Beduin into Israeli society. All
governments have avoided dealing with this issue, but this brave decision will
facilitate the continued development and prosperity of the Negev, for the
benefit of all its residents.”
The press release said that the Beduin
have five years to accept the plan before their claims to land become null and
Negative reactions to the decision were swift from both sides of
On one side, critics say that Israel’s modern way of life
should not be imposed on the Beduin more than they wish and that it is unjust to
take away their historic lands regardless of how poorly some of their land
claims may be documented.
On the other side, the plan is viewed as too
generous, rewarding the Beduin for building “illegally” without permits and for
being unwilling to agree to any boundaries.
An Israel Radio report said
that a Beduin representative opposed any arrangement other than full government
recognition of all of their communities, with no forced relocation.
expectation of the decision, Adalah representative Dr. Tavat Abu Ras said that
the details on the ground were tricky and that in the end the Beduins would
“still lose most of their land in return for symbolic recognition of a few
The head of the Omer council said that it showed “that when
you press, you receive,” suggesting the Beduin had protested loudly enough that
the government had caved in to most of their demands, said the
Ironically, the government decision came a day after the
announcement that the High Court of Justice had rejected a petition by Regavim
to scrap that very decision for giving up too much land which could be used for
future Jewish settlement.
The High Court rejected Regavim’s petition
largely based on the fact that at the time of both the filing and the hearing,
there had been no official government decision that could be
Nevertheless, the High Court’s reasoning left wide open the
possibility of filing a new petition.
There is also a possibility that
the Beduin communities and some of the human rights groups fighting on their
side will also petition the High Court against the government
The decision also said NIS 1.2 billion would be invested in
revitalizing Beduin communities.
The Jerusalem Report contributed to this