Beduin activists up in arms over evacuation-compensation proposal

Edri says previous attempts to solve problem of unrecognized villages "failed."

edri 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
edri 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Beduin activists in the South called on Sunday for the resignation of Negev and Galilee Minister Ya'acov Edri after Edri proposed a plan similar to the evacuation-compensation legislation for Gush Katif to be applied to Negev Beduin. Edri, who first advocated the idea in an interview with Ynet, argued that previous attempts at solving the problem of unrecognized Beduin communities in the Negev had failed. After a number of Knesset committee meetings to deal with the problem came up empty-handed, Edri argued, legislation was the only possible solution. The legislation suggested by Edri was along the lines of the plan advocated by the government prior to the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip. Residents of the unrecognized communities could either accept cash payments to leave of their own accord and move to recognized communities, or, if they refused to leave, would be evacuated by force. As much as half the Negev Beduin population - an estimated 80,000 people - live in over three dozen unrecognized villages in the Negev. Residents have limited access to services usually provided on a municipal level, such as trash collection, water and sewer services and even education, and the government in turn complains that the villages are usually illegally located on the 85 percent of the Negev that is legally state land. Hassein al-Rafaya, chairman of the organization Unrecognized Negev Villages, complained Sunday that Edri had jumped the gun, suggesting a draconian plan before the Goldberg Commission, the government commission appointed to examine the issue, had even submitted its findings. Rafaya condemned the suggestion of using force to remove Beduin from their villages. And MK Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL), a resident of the Beduin village of Liqia, blasted Edri's comments and called on the minister to resign from the government immediately. The Beduin legislator was not alone in his criticism of the plan. Meretz chairman MK Haim Oron described Edri's proposal as "strange and unnecessary and as usual include a small carrot and a big stick." "There is a committee led by Judge (ret.) Eliezar Goldberg which is currently considering the problem of Beduin in the Negev - a committee which includes Beduin representatives - and that committee must arrive at a proposal which solves the problem of lands as well as the problem of settlement," added Oron. "The fact is that tens of thousands of Israeli citizens live under horrifying conditions, without electricity, water or suitable services and that problem must be solved."