The Beduin population of the Negev is expanding faster than existing infrastructure, and urgently requires a massive expansion of existing towns and villages and the founding of six new settlements in order to accommodate it, according to a report to be released Thursday by the Israel Zionist Council.
The Beduin "Dispersion," a term that denotes dozens of scattered, often illegal, settlements with unregulated construction and a severe lack of basic infrastructure, are a product of real demographic need, the report found. The villages are unconnected to the national water and electricity grids, lack good roads and receive little to no education and health care services from the state.
The Israel Zionist Council is the Israeli affiliate of the World Zionist Organization, and is generally viewed as aligned with the center-Right. Its report recommends an "intensive enforcement policy" against unregulated construction, and even the removal of illegal structures. But, the report notes, the existing infrastructure must first meet the real needs of the Beduin.
"Many government and public committees have been established to deal with this problem over the years, but their recommendations have not produced results," according to Moshe Ben-Atar, director of the council.
"In the past, we have failed to show that we have the capability to bring about a real and needed revolution, or to deal honestly with this complex problem," he said.
The report claims that previous efforts at helping the Beduin community "failed to include the Beduin population itself in planning for its future. The Beduin are a traditional tribal society in transition, and are in need of a new reality." Beduin population growth is among the highest in the world, according to the report, estimated at between five and 5.5 percent annually. The population thus doubles every 12 years, today accounting for some 180,000 people.
One-third of the Beduin men are married to more than one woman, and some to as many as four. Some 2,000 illegal structures are added to the sprawling camps each year.
In the Dispersion, "children don't receive a proper education and grow up abandoned and frustrated from the treatment they receive at the hands of the state," the report notes. This creates "a desire for revenge and violence" against Israeli society.
"This is a tragedy of modern Israel, and in the long term, a strategic threat," the report warns.
The report recommends fostering Beduin leadership from within the community itself. It calls for a serious overhaul of basic state services provided to the Beduin, including an affirmative action policy in primary and higher education and a massive investment in local transportation infrastructure.
In constructing the new settlements, the state planners must take into account family and tribal allegiances, the report notes, and take care that the new villages and towns don't harm the local environment and economy.
The report also calls for the implementation of programs that will raise the status of Beduin women, including offering them free higher education, assistance in integrating into the workforce and encouraging the establishment of women's organizations within Beduin society.
The report will be released to the public on Thursday in a ceremony in the Beersheba suburb of Omer.
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>