The state has warned planners and engineers involved in tenders setting up new Bedouin communities in the Negev that they may be charged with violating state security if they divulge the plans.
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Planners and engineers who have worked for the state before say they have never encountered such demands in a tender. Bedouin rights activists and MKs say the warning indicates that the government has secret plans for the Bedouin, and treats them as enemies of the state.
All the Bedouin communities in the Negev will go on strike today and hold a demonstration in the center of Be’er Sheva to protest the cabinet’s approval of a controversial plan for resettling the Negev Bedouin.
A few weeks ago, the Planning Authority to Regulate Bedouin Settlement issued a tender for “planning and management services,” consisting of preparing master plans for new Bedouin settlements and expanding existing ones.
The tender was issued following the cabinet’s approval last month of the so-called Begin-Prawer plan to relocate Negev Bedouin and the legislation expected in its wake.
An appendix to the tender requires all contenders to sign a commitment “to keep the professional information and secrets in complete secrecy...Failing to do so constitutes a violation of clause 7 [state security, foreign relations and official secrets] of the penal code.”
Breaching the secrecy obligation will entail charges of one of the offenses listed in clause 7, the document says. Among the offenses listed in clause 7 are treason and espionage.
Following Haaretz’s query, officials in the Bedouin Resettlement Authority said the appendix refers to the part in clause 7 that deals with secrecy breaches on the part of developers who sign a contract with the state.
But planners and engineers who have contended for numerous state tenders said that while it was customary to sign a secrecy appendix, none of them had ever seen a reference to the security violations in the penal code, except in tenders for security and strategic facilities. Civil engineering tenders usually stipulate that anyone who breaches secrecy will be fined.
Attorney Shahda Ibn Bari, a leading Bedouin rights activist, said “we fear this is a plot against the Bedouin residents and communities. What could [the state] have to hide in planning Bedouin settlements that can be described as state secrets?”
Hadash leader MK Mohammed Barakeh demanded a withdrawal of the tender and the bill to resettle the Bedouin. “The appendix proves the government treats the Arab citizens of the Negev as enemies,” he said.
“Apparently the government has secret plans beyond its declared and dangerous plan to confiscate about 700,000 dunams from the Bedouin and transfer some 40,000 people from their homes,” he said.
The Bedouin Resettlement Authority said in response that “if any of the professionals involved had any questions or reservations they should have asked for clarifications at the date set in the tender, which has passed. But no questions were raised.”
The Prawer-Begin plan calls for relocating 20,000-30,000 Bedouin to officially recognized towns in the Negev including Rahat, Hura and Ksayfe. Those who move are to receive financial compensation as well as new plots of land. The plan is estimated to cost the state NIS 6.8 billion.
Bedouin leaders harshly criticized the plan, calling it immoral and impractical. “This is a step that harms the basic rights of the Bedouin.