Beduin evacuation, Rmat Hasharon370.
(photo credit: Courtesy, Ramat Hasharon Municipality)
Ahead of the Knesset debate on the proposed Prawer-Begin plan to regulate Beduin
settlement in the Negev, a press conference was held by a delegation described
as an independent fact finding mission, along with Beduin community
representatives at the Knesset on Wednesday.
Representative to the United
Nations for the International Federation for Human Rights Michelle
Kissenkoetter, one of three delegates on the factfinding mission for the Beduin
issue, told The Jerusalem Post, “The conference today was just a chance to share
some preliminary conclusions and recommendations.”
The mission’s report
is yet to be written, but Kissenkoetter said that on a tour of the Negev, they
observed “ongoing human rights violations.”
The main two issues were a
lack of basic services and an unequal application of the law when compared to
She added that members also spoke to the drafters of
the Prawer-Begin plan – which is to be presented as a bill to the Knesset within
10 days – and drafters asserted that the claimed goal was to improve the
situation for all of the communities. Yet the delegation’s impression, she said,
was that the plan would not achieve this goal, that it would not improve the
situation and that it could actually make it worse.
The Post spoke to
Balad MK Basel Ghattas, a co-founder of Adalah, the legal center for Arab
minority rights, which is also a key NGO fighting for Beduin land claims in the
“I and other MKs explained the consequences of the law and that we
think it is very harmful to the community and will lead to the displacement of
tens of thousands of people and the demolition of many villages,” said
The MK told the Post that he has studied and been involved in
this issue for some time. He said that all efforts are being made to get Knesset
members to vote down the bill when it is presented and that they are
disseminating information to help their cause.
In following Balad’s
strategy of internationalizing the conflict, Ghattas said that global pressure
on the Israeli government is extremely important in order to force it to stop
“Our basic claim is that the government can withdraw the law and
engage in serious negotiations with the Beduin,” he said.
In terms of the
law proposal itself, Ghattas said that it does not reflect a compromise
solution, but calls on the Beduin to give up all of their claims and apply for
compensation to a government formed committee, without knowing what the results
will be beforehand.
Ghattas said the right-wing are claiming that “the
Beduin are invaders and settled illegally,” but in fact they have “lived there
for hundreds of years.” He went on to argue that the British Mandate and the
Ottoman Empire recognized Beduin communities.
Joumha Azbarga, a Balad
activist working in the Negev headquarters of the party, said that there will be
a demonstration in Beersheba on Thursday to protest against the law proposal. He
said that a group has been formed, coordinating its activities amongst all of
the Arab political parties. He hopes the turnout will be in the
“We will continue to fight against the law in democratic ways
until the law is cancelled – we will not be silent,” said Azbarga.
Briggs, the international relations director of Regavim, an NGO that says it
seeks to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel’s national
land, explained to the Post why these arguments in favor of the Beduin are
Briggs said Regavim understands that there needs to be a
compromise to reach a lasting solution to the problem, but that this solution
should not threaten the future existence of the state. In regard to the plan on
the table, which Regavim opposes, Briggs said he might support it if it is
implemented – and stops future illegal Beduin settlement expansion.
NGOs always talk about legalizing 35 settlements with 400 or more residents, but
what about the other 2,000?” Briggs added that according to the Interior
Ministry, every year there are an additional 2,000 new, illegal structures
built. He blamed the pro- Beduin NGOs for the difficulty of reaching a solution,
stating they are pushing the people not to compromise.
Prawer-Begin plan calls for legalizing 63 percent of Beduin claimed land, and
Regavim is willing to accept a lower figure – as long as all additional illegal
settlement expansion is halted.