Committee: Gov't Should Formally Recognize Bedouin Villages in Negev

Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim says government should approve committee's recommendations this year.

A committee charged with deciding the fate of illegally constructed Bedouin villages in the Negev on Thursday recommended that they be formally recognized by the government.

The government appointed former Chief Justice Eliezer Goldberg to oversee the committee, which submitted its report Thursday to Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim.

In an attempt to reach a compromise between the Bedouin community and the government, the Goldberg Committee made several other recommendations.

They include allowing villages that do not gain formal recognition to move to alternate sites; compensating some Bedouin complainants monetarily and others with land; and establishing a committee to formally recognize illegally constructed buildings in Bedouin villages.

Boim said that the committee was formed to try and bridge the gap between the Bedouin community in the Negev and the government, whose relationship he described as full of mistrust and suspicion.

Boim said that the government will approve the recommendations this year, and that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert attaches great importance and urgency to the issue of Bedouin settlement in the Negev.

After submitting the report, Goldberg warned that the incoming government must also feel bound to implement the findings.

Tens of thousands of Bedouin live in the Negev in dozens of villages that are unrecognized by the state and are not connected to the national water and sewage systems.