(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Southern District police chief Cmdr. Yochanan Danino and about a dozen Beduin
leaders held a goodwill meeting in Beersheba’s police station on Thursday and
pledged to maintain strong ties despite growing tensions over state demolitions
of Beduin structures near Rahat in recent weeks.
The meeting was also
attended by Danino’s Beduin affairs adviser, Ch.-Insp. Shalom Ben- Tzalman – a
fluent Arabic speaker, and Negev police subdistrict head Lt.-Cmdr. Avshalom
For the fourth time in less than four weeks, illegally built
structures in the unrecognized Beduin village of Kafr al-Arakib were
this week by staffers from the Israel Lands Administration escorted by
The demolitions follow a High Court of Justice decision that the
should be demolished, following a legal dispute which lasted for almost a
Relations between the police in the South and the 200,000- strong
Beduin community have traditionally been good.
Danino said he was opposed
in general to demolition of Beduin structures as a solution to the
issue, and told the leaders he tried to influence authorities to cancel
demolitions in cases that seemed likely to soon be resolved in the
The Beduin leaders said they appreciated that Danino had called
the meeting, and condemned fellow leaders who had chosen to boycott it.
were the only state authority to hold regular meetings with them, they
criticizing the central government for failing to keep up a dialogue.
warned that extremist forces were attempting enter their
“The fact that we are sitting here together and discussing
this says it all,” said Dr. Maera al-Tauri, former head of social
Rahat. “We have no other country except this country.
We are for the
country, not against it. But we want to proceed with honor.”
mayor Talal al- Kirnawi confirmed that relations with police are good,
added, “The atmosphere is bad.
We know you have to carry out the
demolitions. You are not the problem. But where is the central
They’re nowhere to be seen. Outside elements are exploiting their
Kirnawi added, “The government must decide: Does it want to push the
toward unwanted forces, or embrace this community. The Beduin community
talk. Demolitions during Ramadan, when we are fasting in the heat, and
barely talk, are out of line... We don’t want a media circus. We want to
Danino responded by saying that police had chosen a policy of not
clearing structures during Ramadan, out of respect for the Beduin
that a small group had taken advantage of the policy to rebuild
were demolished just before the holiday started, in the hope that they
remain standing in the coming weeks.
“I won’t let outside forces take the
Negev to the wrong place,” Danino said, referring to political elements
outside the area that have organized demonstrations.
Danino said he was
disturbed by “distorted” media reports that portrayed police as
by attempts by political forces to exploit the issue to increase
“The Beduin community is a law abiding community. After all the
legal processes, the High Court decided to clear the land.
ensured that all the affected people had alternative homes in Rahat, the
structures were destroyed,” Danino said. “I believe in dialogue, because
demolitions are not a realistic solution. But when the High Court makes a
ruling, we will carry it out.”
The police chief added that “the principal
of rule of law is no less important than finding a solution to Beduin
and we will act with determination against those who invade state
“We won’t allow small group of lawbreakers to undermine a whole
community... and to cynically exploit the Muslims’ holy holiday to
rule of law and violate High Court decisions,” Danino said.