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NCF: The Government’s Plan for the Dispossession of the Bedouin Population [03.02.2014]

NCF-Newsletter Jan 2014 The Government plan, known as the Prawer Begin Plan, (hereafter the Plan) is a plan for the dispossession of the Bedouin population from its lands, the demolition of its historical villages and the forced resettlement of its population in Government sponsored townships. Allegedly this plan is designed to implement the recommendations of Judge Eliezer Goldberg’s committee of 2008 , recommendations that were unsatisfying for the Bedouin community. In fact the Prawer-Begin Plan turns the clock back and its implementation will bring about the demolition of most of the unrecognized villages and the transfer of tens of thousands of their residents to urban centers and townships that even now are considered among the most impoverished and underdeveloped places in Israel.

Ehud Prawer, who headed the committee that developed the Plan, was the Deputy Chief of the Council for National Security and head of the Department for Policy in the Office of the Prime Minister. Mr. Prawer presented the plan for the first time at the Herzliya Conference in 2006, claiming that the rationale for the “solution to the Bedouin problem” was inspired by the plan for the disengagement from Gaza.

The Plan, which was approved by the Government in September 2011, and passed its first reading as a proposed law in June 2013 has three components: land exchange and regulation (proposed law), planning and development.

The proposed Law specifies the compensations, arrangements and allotment of land from Tlalim Junction in the south to Lehavim Junction east of route 40, and from Eshel-Hanasi Junction to Kama Junction east of route 264 and north of Route 310. Compensation may be given in the area of the original land owned, although the State is not bound to this arrangement. In any case, compensation will be no greater than 50% of the original plot that people used for agriculture or residence at the time they submitted the land claims. The assumption is that the compensation in land will amount to maximum 100,000 dunams (approx. 24.700 acres) compared to the total land claimed by the Bedouin: 600,000 dunams (approx. 148.263 acres).

The planning section is based on the partial master plan for the Be’er-Sheva metropolis – TMM 14/4 change no. 23. This was approved in 2012 and outlines the development goals of the area. These include forests, roads, new settlements and more to be built in place of Bedouin villages and to a large extent at their expense. The plan allocates limited “search areas” for new Bedouin villages, usually around Nevatim air-base in the area between Route 80 and 31 in the east and south, and Route 25 west and north of Nevatim air base. The government’s decision states: “... to make clear beyond any doubt, no alternative lands will be given and no [Bedouin] village will be planned west of road 40, except for the triangle of north Rahat and the Bir-Hadag area ...”[1]

The economic section includes “ a five year plan for promoting the growth and the economic development of the Bedouin population of the Negev” (8). The plan allocates 1.2 billion shekels over 5 years for the development of the Bedouin towns that will absorb Bedouin from the unrecognized villages as well as for other purposes. For example, one sixth of the plans’ budget, 215 million shekels, is designated for expanding the law enforcement by the Ministry of Public Security, namely, recruiting hundreds of extra policeman to implement the evacuation of Bedouin from their villages. Under the sponsorship of the Prawer plan funds are also allocated for projects that are not exclusively for the benefit of the Bedouin population.

This is the second time a law designated exclusively for the Bedouin population has been legislated in Israel. The first time was on the occasion of the eviction of the village of Tel Malchata when, in the early 1980s, 5,000 people were evicted from the area designated for the Nevatim army air base and transferred to the townships Kuseifa and Arara. This law was called “The peace law”.

This policy of dispossession has been common to all Israeli governments as can be seen from government decisions, and implementation of daily practices such as home demolitions, denial of services and water or forestation. It is not by chance that already in 2005, before the Plan became public, the Wikileaks documents indicate: “...In the Negev, the plan involves an initiative of various ministries for the Bedouins in the Negev and will include a transfer of about 65,000 Bedouins who live in unrecognized villages between Be’er- Sheva and Dimona...”.

The Prawer Begin Plan waves a whip of destruction and expulsion over the heads of the residents of the unrecognized villages – citizens of the state of Israel – by not allowing them to build their houses lawfully due to the lack of governmental planning policy in their villages. House demolitions are part of the government’s foolish attempt to “concentrate” by force all the Bedouin residents of the Negev in underdeveloped and discriminated townships in order to vacate lands for Jewish rural settlements, which are already in abundance in the Negev or to forests, army bases and more. It has to be said that this policy is racist, with no prospect of implementation, and one which harms the life fabric of the people of the Negev. The government has to retreat from the plan and if it doesn’t we all should attempt to stop it in order to live a life of normalcy and equality.

[1]The Group Areas Act No 41 of 1950 (commenced 7 July) forced physical separation between races by creating different residential areas for different races. Implementation began in 1954 and it led to forced removals of people living in "wrong" areas and the wholesale destruction of communities.


Ergänzende Links:
The Negev Coexistence Forum Newsletter (ncf)

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