Beduin women yelling 370.
(photo credit: Amir Cohen/Reuters)
Pro-Beduin NGOs lobbied on Monday at the Knesset against the Prawer- Begin plan,
which seeks to regulate Arab settlement in the Negev. Labor MK Omer Bar-Lev, who
heads the Beduin lobby, told The Jerusalem Post that over the years, the Beduin
issue had been avoided and as a result, the problem became worse.
noted that it was a sensitive issue and that the proposed Prawer- Begin law “is
not fair enough and it needs many changes.” He said that despite the coalition
considerations, he thinks the bill could pass, but that “extremists on both
sides are blocking a negotiated solution.”
Asked about the opposition
from the right, which argues that the bill is too generous and does not stop
continued illegal Beduin building and the estimated Interior Ministry statistics
which sight 2,000 additional illegal structures per year, Bar-Lev responded that
this is a “populist argument” and that “if you read the law, you will see that
this is not the case.”
Told by the Post
that it seemed as if the two
parties are too far apart for a negotiated settlement, the Labor MK responded,
“A lot of the time we hear the people on both extremes, but not the people in
the middle.” He added that the politicians have to come to an agreement and each
side must compromise.
Israeli Arab Balad MK Jamal Zahalka told the Post
“I think it is naïve to think about a compromise.”
“There is pressure on
the government to make the law more extreme and that is why the Bayit Yehudi
party is keeping the plan from coming to a vote in the Knesset,” he said. “We
are ready to negotiate if the Prawer-Begin law is set aside and a new effort is
made to come to an agreement through direct negotiations between the Beduin
community and the state.”
Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, the director of
the headquarters for the economic and community development of the Negev Beduin
in the Prime Minister’s Office told the Post that a legal solution is required
to solve the Beduin issue.
He said that the Prawer-Begin plan is fair and
that during future Knesset debate further changes and compensation may be added.
He noted that the Goldberg Commission – which put together the 2008 report that
was the basis for the Prawer-Begin plan – concluded three things. First, Eliezer
Goldberg, who chaired the commission, said that the Beduin did not have legal
land ownership of the land; second, that he recommended that the state come to a
compromise with the Beduin; and third, there needed to be a law to solve the
“A law is a tool,” said Almog emphasizing that once
there was a law, it could be enforced and that he believes it can pass in the
If the law is not passed then the amount of available land will
continue to decrease and the situation will continue to deteriorate.
noted that 85 percent of the Beduin do not own the land where they are currently
residing. Despite this, he said the government was willing to compromise and
some Beduin are open to a deal. “The state is ready to invest a lot to resettle
them and in compensation,” he said.
Asked if the plan is enforceable if
it becomes law, he responded, “We know what to do against those that won’t
agree. The goal is to improve the quality of life of the Beduin,” said Almog
asserting that the goal is to bring the Negev under the laws of the
Ari Briggs, the international relations director of Regavim, an
NGO that states that it seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use
of Israel’s national land, told the Post that there should be no further
compromise on the government’s part.
“The Beduin as a whole have not
accepted a compromise in the 40 years Israel has been offering
NGO’s funded by the New Israel Fund and others have been
telling them not to compromise, that they will get what they want if they hold
out,” said Briggs. He added that so called “pro-Beduin NGOs” are telling the
Beduin to just say no, promising they will get everything they want.
Beduin would have come to an agreement by now had it not been for the training
these NGOs promote.
Postponing a compromise agreement has also meant that
dealing with the more crucial socio-economic issues of the Beduin have been
postponed,” said Briggs.
In response to Bar-Lev’s dismissal of the
statistic that 2,000 illegal structures are being built each year in the Negev,
Briggs said that he is certain the number is correct. The figures from the
Interior Ministry are backed up by Regavim’s research, he added that all one
needs to do is look at the illegal building within the 11 newly legalized Abu
Basma Beduin settlements. The government retroactively legalized thousands of
buildings to test the possibility of the local population to abide by
obligations expected of any citizen. However, a continued contempt for the law
is clear in any visit to these villages, Briggs said.