The cabinet approved Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir’s proposal and adopted new political principles regulating settlement and economic development of the Negev Beduin, the Agriculture Ministry announced on Monday.
The Ministerial Committee on the Regulation of Settlement and Socioeconomic development of the Negev Beduin, led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, approved Shamir’s plan on Monday morning.
It is designed to increase efficiency and reduce bureaucracy, with the Regulatory Authority for Beduin Settlements in the Negev, based in Beersheba, coming under the rubric of the Agriculture Ministry.
The authority’s name is to be changed to the Authority for Development and Beduin Settlement in the Negev.
“Improving the integration and economic development of the Beduin is a national goal,” Shamir said.
The setup “will focus on the economic development of the Beduin population in parallel with efforts to end the conflict and come to a compromise over land claims, while also enhancing enforcement in a focused way in order to encourage the population to reach an agreement,” Shamir said.
He replaced former minister Benny Begin in January as the government’s point man handling the Beduin land issue.
The Prawer-Begin bill, frozen while Shamir studies the complex issue and formulates a solution, is a five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement in the Negev.
It aims for a compromise solution for tens of thousands of Beduin scattered in unrecognized village, legalizing 63 percent of their land claims.
Beduin supporters oppose the bill because they say it would result in up to 40,000 Beduin losing their land. Opponents on the Right criticize the bill as too generous, saying the state is giving away land for free, land that the Beduin could not prove to be theirs in court.
Thabet Abu Rass, co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that stopping Knesset legislation along the lines of the Prawer plan, and Shamir’s desire to open dialogue with the Beduin, are positive developments.
“There is a serious problem of lack of trust between the Beduin and the government,” said Abu Rass.
“The government should change its policy and not just the people handling the issue,” he said, adding that it should start with “immediately stopping the demolition of homes,” and offering various options to settling the Beduin, “including recognition of their historic villages.”
Amichai Yogev, southern regional 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 everyone agrees with the economic and social development part of the government’s plan, but there is much less agreement regarding the enforcement provisions.
“The desire of all of us is that the Beduin will be equal citizens, in both rights and duties,” Yogev said.