Bedouin houses in the Negev.
Bedouin houses in the Negev. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkowitz
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The government is set to vote Sunday on the approval of some unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and assistance to the Negev Bedouin in health, education, employment and infrastructure.

The proposal under consideration includes recognition of only some of the unrecognized communities, and various arrangements to resolve the conflict between the state and the Bedouin over land ownership.

The proposal, which has been harshly criticized by human rights groups, calls for special legislation to resolve issues of land ownership by the Bedouin groups.

The legislation, to be prepared by Minister without Portfolio Benny Begin, calls for the establishment of an authority in the Prime Minister's Office.

According to the proposal, the Bedouin will be able to use land to which they claim ownership for any purpose, including settling other Bedouin on it.

However, only demands for ownership submitted up to 1979 will be considered, on condition that proof is forthcoming that the land was cultivated.

Claims will not be allowed for lands used for grazing.

The proposal will give greater leeway in terms of the number and size of communities to be recognized, but it will only recognize communities established in areas where the recently approved Be'er Sheva regional master plan calls for settlement. Thus, not all unrecognized communities will be legalized.

According to Interior Ministry statistics, Bedouin constitute 32 percent of the greater metropolitan area of Be'er Sheva, and more than a third live in unrecognized communities. There are currently 57,000 illegal structures and 2,749 legal claims pending on about half a million dunams (125,000 acres ).

The NGO Bimkom - Planners for Planning Rights says the current proposal will mean "the unjustified uprooting of some 30,000 people," and calls for the recognition of their villages.