More Than NIS 1 Billion to Be Allocated to Negev Bedouin Plan

Tsahar Rotem
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Tsahar Rotem

A five-year plan for Bedouin in the Negev that includes investments of NIS 1.175 billion will be submitted for government approval in the coming weeks.

Sources in the Negev said this is the most comprehensive plan ever proposed for Negev Bedouin, and represents "a real attempt to deal with problems faced by this sector, as well as the land issue."

The plan includes establishment of a mechanism to formulate solutions on land disputes, along with large allocations for developing infrastructure resources in Bedouin communities. The plan was drawn up by a special intra-ministerial committee in conjunction with various local councils in the south.

The precise date of government action on the plan remains unclear. It is possible that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will delay action until after the general elections at the end of the month; he might favor such a deferral to avoid being accused of endorsing a political gimmick aimed at winning votes.

The plan's first section relates to land disputes involving Negev Bedouin. To expedite handling of land claims, personnel will be added to Justice Ministry departments and to the courts.

Under the plan, the Israel Lands Administration will submit counter-claims of land ownership to contest claims already made by Bedouin. Criteria to submit land ownership claims will be worked out by the ILA, the Authority for the Advancement of Bedouin and the State Prosecutor's Office.

Decisions on land issues will be approved by the ministerial committee for minority affairs or the responsible cabinet minister.

The plan's second section deals with "enforcement of the state's rights on land issues, and enforcement of planning and construction." According to this section, the government calls for massive reinforcement of officials responsible for enforcing planning and construction ordinances in the Negev.

The goal is to contain a widening trend by which Bedouin grab possession of state lands. This section also stipulates that criteria involving the issuance of home demolition orders are to be worked out by the attorney general and the State Prosecutor's Office.

Under the plan, the police will also set up a framework for the enforcement of planning and construction codes. Police will be asked to help with the issuance of special orders involving construction, and for carrying out investigations in some cases.

Another important section of the plan calls for the creation of a public body responsible for developing infrastructure at various Bedouin communities in the south. The plan states that infrastructure development will "furnish solutions to the distinctive needs" of the Bedouin sector.

Under this plan, a number of new communities are to be created for Bedouin in the south.

The plan spells out budgets which are to be allocated by various government ministries and public bodies. Among other things, state funds are to be allocated for the construction of educational institutions and public facilities that will serve the Negev's Bedouin population.

"The plan is comprehensive and includes two major innovations: allocation of funds for the promotion of Bedouin interests in the Negev, and, concurrently, the financing of stepped up enforcement against illegal construction and the taking of land," Shmuel Rifman, head of the Ramat Negev Regional Council, said last night.

"Anyone who talks about a powder keg in the Negev when relating to the region's Bedouin must unhesitatingly adopt this plan."

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