Tel Arad - Ilan Assayag
Tel Arad and Atir-Um al-Hiran seek official recognition. Photo by Ilan Assayag
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The Prime Minister's Office directly intervened on Monday in a National Planning and Building Council decision, preventing it from granting official recognition to two Bedouin villages in the Negev.

The move was so unusual that it prompted the council to schedule a second hearing over the issue less than a day after Gabi Golan, Advisor to the Prime Minister for Planning and Development in the PMO, announced the PMO's intention to prevent Tel Arad and Atir-Um al-Hiran from being recognized.

The council recommended "the facilitation of planning and organization of the western section of Tel Arad." In his letter, Golan urged the council to reconsider its decision, saying that Tel Arad residents can be rehoused in other villages such as Kseifa and Al Farah.

"To the best of our knowledge," Golan wrote, "the council has not sufficiently taken into consideration the fact that there are a number of existing, or planned, solutions for these groups already," he wrote.

He also noted that 25 percent of the Abu al-Qian clan lives in Atir-Um al-Hiran, while the other 75 percent live in Hura, where the state has spent tens of millions of shekels on a program to settle members of the clan in a planned neighborhood.

Golan wrote that the council's decision would obligate the state to reexamine planning and budget measures for the Negev Bedouin that were already in motion.

Interior Ministry sources yesterday confirmed that the council is to hold a second hearing on the issue but did not elaborate on its nature or indicate whether they believed the villages would ultimately be granted official recognition.

The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages and Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, are already planning to petition the National Planning and Building Council to cancel the second hearing.