Negev homes built illegally to be connected to electricity after Lapid gives in to Ra'am

A controversial bill that would enable Arab and Bedouin homes built illegally to be connected to electricity will be made law, and Mandelblit defends Sa'ar's 'anti-Netanyahu' bill.

 Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Ra'am head Mansour Abbas and members of their parties tour the Negev on October 21, 2021  (photo credit: ELAD GUTMAN)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, Ra'am head Mansour Abbas and members of their parties tour the Negev on October 21, 2021
(photo credit: ELAD GUTMAN)

Following a threat to boycott the state budget and call for new elections, a controversial bill introduced by Ra’am (United Arab List) MK Waleed Taha will be passed by the coalition in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday and in the Knesset days later.

Taha, who chairs the Knesset Interior Committee, canceled all of its meetings for this week, which were set to legislate part of the economic arrangements bill that accompanies the state budget. He said he would not convene the committee, because the coalition is not advancing a bill that would enable Arab and Bedouin homes built illegally to be connected to electricity.

“We have come to decision time,” Taha said. “Either agreements will be fully honored or we will go to elections. Electricity is a basic human right and the state is preventing hooking up tens of thousands of homes built without permits because local authorities did not bother with proper planning for decades.”

Following the threat, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid colleague, Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen, set out on a tour of the Negev on Thursday with Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas, in which Lapid announced that the coalition would expedite the bill

Ra'am head Mansour Abbas, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid  and Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen tour the Negev on October 21, 2021  (credit: ELAD GUTMAN)Ra'am head Mansour Abbas, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services Minister Meir Cohen tour the Negev on October 21, 2021 (credit: ELAD GUTMAN)

“More and more communities will be connected to electricity and the first three unrecognized villages will go through the process of being legalized,” Lapid said on the tour.

“Historic changes are being made, and Arab society is taking responsibility together with us to deal with things that have been neglected for years and now will be fixed for the benefit of the State of Israel and all its citizens.”

Cohen told the Arabic language Radio Nas that “those who say we are selling out the Negev to the Arabs should stop blabbering” and “legalization and enforcement in the Negev are urgent interests of all the citizens of the state.”

Advancing Taha’s bill will enable the passage of the budget and the economic arrangements bill that must be passed into law by November 14 in order to avoid initiating early elections in February.

Once the budget is passed, the coalition will shift to controversial bills like Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar’s proposal to prevent a candidate under a serious criminal indictment from forming a government. The bill would apply to those indicted for a crime punishable by a three-year sentence, which would include former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been indicted for bribery.

Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit endorsed the bill in his first public comments about it on Thursday at a conference in memory of the late Supreme Court judge Meir Shamgar. Mandelblit said he did not see the bill as personally singling out anyone.

“The bill would add the premiership to the public positions that are conditioned on being fit,” Mandelblit said. “We must ensure that statesmanship takes precedence over every personal interest.”

The Likud responded that the bill is not only personal but also undemocratic and unprecedented internationally and that the sole purpose of the bill is to enable Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Sa’ar to steal a second election in a row.

“What Mandelblit said is an insult to the intelligence,” Religious Zionist Party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir said. “There is no doubt that this bill is being legislated in order to prevent Netanyahu’s return to the premiership. The bill violates the concept of innocent until proven guilty and contradicts all the foundations of democracy.”