Dovish Ex-general Appointed to Liaise With Bedouin in West Bank

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A Bedouin encampment in the West Bank. The Civil Administration wants to move the Bedouin to new, permanent towns near Jericho.Credit: AFP

A member of the dovish Peace and Security Association, Brig. Gen. (ret.) Dov Sedaka, has been appointed by the Civil Administration to liaise with West Bank Bedouin over the process of relocating them into several permanent towns, Haaretz has learned.

Sedaka’s appointment was ratified on February 11 by the head of the Civil Administration in the West Bank, David Menachem. Sedaka, a former fighter in Sayeret Matkal (the general staff’s elite special-operations force), himself headed the Civil Administration between 1998 and 2002.

He is to serve as the go-between with all the Bedouin communities in Area C (the parts of the West Bank under full Israeli control) and their lawyers regarding their concentration into permanent settlements that the Civil Administration defines as “providing a legal and planning solution for the Bedouin population.”

He is also supposed to liaise between the various Civil Administration bodies responsible for evicting and relocating the Bedouin, and the military advocate general in the West Bank, and ensure the smooth flow of information to all the concerned bodies.

The appointment does not mention the Palestinian Authority as one of the bodies with which he will liaise, even though the relocation plans also directly affect Areas A and B. To date, Sedaka has not approached the Bedouin or their lawyers, and some of them only learned of his appointment through Haaretz.

The appointment comes after a Civil Administration master plan was published last September for a permanent Bedouin town north of Jericho, to be called Talet Nueima. One of the Bedouin and their representatives’ main objections is that the plan to concentrate them together was drawn up without consulting them, without transparency, consideration for their lifestyle, their traditions and their livelihood opportunities. Hundreds of objections to the plan were filed, including by local authorities within the PA.

Attorneys Michal Luft and Shlomo Lecker, representing the Jahalin tribe, petitioned the High Court of Justice, demanding that the plan’s application be halted because it was made without consulting the Bedouin community or considering their desires.

After the state tarried in presenting a response to the court, Justice Daphne Barak-Erez ruled to freeze the process of hearing objections to the plan, effectively blocking its advancement.

The Civil Administration claimed it had held discussions with the Bedouin, but Sedaka’s appointment seems to indicate that in the Civil Administration’s view, if there were discussions with the Bedouin, they were not suitable.

The Civil Administration, as the instigator of the government’s policies in the West Bank, does not recognize most of the dozens of Bedouin camps in Area C as legal settlements. The Israeli ban on linking them to water and the power infrastructure, and build in accordance with natural population growth, as well as the limitations on free movement and loss of grazing lands and livelihood opportunities, have brought about extended human distress in these communities.

Sources in the Civil Administration say the permanent towns it is planning are the solution to this distress. Operations to evacuate Bedouin in the past 20 years have allowed for the expansion of Jewish settlements, and the PA sees this as part of the de facto annexation of Area C – contrary to the Oslo Accords.

Before serving as Civil Administration head for four years, Sedaka headed the IDF’s coordination and liaison administration in the Gaza Strip. His promotion in the army was blocked after he admitted leaking parts of a private conversation he held with then-Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon at the beginning of the second intifada, during which Ya’alon mentioned the possibility of deporting Yasser Arafat. During his tenure as Civil Administration head, Sedaka voiced restrained criticism of some of the IDF’s methods for suppressing the intifada.

On returning to civilian life, he joined the Economic Cooperation Foundation. Founded in 1990, the ECF’s first initiative was to facilitate a secret communication channel with the Palestine Liberation Organization that led to the signing of the Oslo Accords.

Among the nonprofit’s founders were Yossi Beilin and Yair Hirschfeld. The Israeli foundation defines itself as a think tank for political planning committed to a two-state solution and advancing peace, security, stability and prosperity for Israel and its Arab neighbors. The ECF’s website notes that Sedaka is one of four senior experts, alongside Col. (ret.) Shaul Arieli, Brig. Gen. (res.) Baruch Spiegel and Yonatan Touval. One of the foundation’s activities is crisis management. According to its website, “Given its unique access to and cooperation with the various

Israeli security agencies, ECF has emerged as a frequent problem solver whose channels have often been used to reduce tensions and convey messages.”

Other activities include long-term and short-term planning. One of the short-term activities that the foundation takes pride in is helping remove roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank, using its “unique access to Israeli security authorities and to the main international players.” ECF donors include USAID, Ford Foundation, Kahanoff Foundation, Ebert Stiftung Foundation, and the governments of Denmark, Britain, Switzerland, Norway and Sweden.

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