The decision by the cabinet on Sunday approving the Prawer report's plan to regulate the Bedouin communities in the Negev is an unfortunate continuation of an insensitive policy which is leading to unnecessary friction between the government and citizens of the country. The Bedouin of the Negev are above all citizens of the State of Israel, but the government doesn't treat them as such.
In June, it released its wide-ranging plan to "regulate Bedouin communities in the Negev," at a cost believed to be between NIS 6 billion to NIS 8 billion. The plan is officially based on recommendations of the Goldberg Commission on unrecognized villages. In practice, however, selective use was made of the recommendations. This became truly problematic following the perplexing involvement of the national security adviser, Ya'akov Amidror.
As a result, ultimately a decisive answer was developed to "the Bedouin problem" and to "Bedouin taking control of state land" - characterizations that border on incitement. In actuality, it involves 30 percent of the Negev's population, living on about two percent of the region's land. Even if the Bedouin's most sweeping demands are accepted, it wouldn't cover more than five percent of the region.
The Prawer plan contains several successful principles, and some of its intent may not be bad. Its fundamental drawback is that it imposes an aggressive solution on members of an entire community who, in light of their bitter past experience, have almost totally lost faith in the state's good intentions. The plan does not take the community's needs into account or involve them in the process.
The Netanyahu government excels in laying out grandiose, expensive, impractical master plans. Even if ultimately 30,000 citizens are not evicted by force from their homes, the plan's threatening tone already deepens the strong lack of confidence already prevalent among the Bedouin. The government must show the Bedouin, who have suffered from prolonged neglect, that it is prepared to adopt a new approach.
The key is proper planning, in the spirit of the Goldberg Commission report, including the involvement - as equals - of the thousands of Bedouin professionals in various fields: education, health, planning, local government, economics and social welfare. This would benefit Israel's Bedouin citizens and the Negev as a whole.
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