Knesset panel discusses Beduin villages without power

Beduin Development Authority head blames lack of electricity on delays in regulating settlements.

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yesh Atid MK Karin Elharar said at a State Control Committee meeting on Monday that 10 of 11 Beduin villages recognized by the state in the Negev do not have electricity.
“The government is aware of the problem, but decides not to act. It is necessary to secure... proper infrastructure for all residents of the area,” she said.
The State Control Committee discussed the situation of the Beduin in the Negev, and in two months State Comptroller Joseph Shapira is due to issue a report on the issue.
Fellow Yesh Atid MK Meir Cohen said “Today the Negev is a no man’s land” with 250,000 people living in poor conditions, adding, “There has developed a state within a state.”
“If you want to bring law and order to the Negev, it must be realized that the Beduin are not going to disappear and are loyal citizens,” he said.
While not opposed to evacuating illegal settlements, the Yesh Atid MK argued in favor of affirmative action to help those Beduin villages the government deems legal.
Yariv Man, the acting director of the Beduin Development Authority, responded that eight employment centers have been established by the Economy Ministry and NIS 100 million allocated to road paving. He blamed the lack of electricity hookup in some Beduin communities on delays in regulating settlements and obtaining construction permits, as well as difficulties in clarifying land ownership. Most Beduin communities now have running water, he pointed out.
“There is a dialogue between the government and Beduin, but without the will of the population it is very difficult, and we are trying to find a balance.”
Jonathan Kobrigro, a representative of the Public Security ministry, said that last year approximately 606 demolition orders were carried out of illegal houses.
Retired judge Eliezer Goldberg, who headed a committee that investigated the matter, said there is a lot of talk but little is done. “The Beduin should look in the mirror. They have contributed to the current situation. Perhaps because of the problem of leadership.”
Joint List MK Taleb Abu Arar commented that “more than 30 percent of the population of the Negev is Beduin and all Israeli governments act in the same policy – a lack of recognition and basic rights, and suffering from discrimination.”
“The Israeli public sees the Beduin as squatters but they are the original residents of the Negev,” he argued.
Joint List MK Osama Saadi warned, “We cannot continue to pressure the people. In the end they will explode.”