Bedouin 'Will Be Consulted' Over Resettlement Plan in Negev

Agriculture minister cites the Bedouin’s better conditions in recognized villages and wants to spread this living standard wider.

Shirly Seidler
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Shirly Seidler

The minister now responsible for the controversial plan to resettle Negev Bedouin pledged Tuesday to cooperate better with the Bedouin leaders and people.

The new man in charge, Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir, said he would hold weekly meetings with Bedouin leaders, including council heads. He would then submit a new plan to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latest bid to get Negev Bedouin to live in recognized villages.

“This is a complex and loaded issue that requires a fundamental and comprehensive solution,” said Shamir, who toured the Negev on Tuesday.

The authority to draw up a new plan was transferred to the Agriculture Ministry after the government said Sunday the Prime Minister’s Office would no longer be responsible. The new format would be a better way for all bodies involved to cooperate, it said. Meanwhile, the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee said the bill on the issue would be changed, but it didn't give details.

“The residents living in recognized villages enjoy a good standard of living, and it’s important that this be provided for the rest of the Bedouin population,” said Shamir, the son of a former prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir.

He said the “real goal” had been overlooked: to enable the Bedouin “to become integrated citizens enjoying equal rights and sufficient services, and to reduce unemployment and thereby renew the Negev. The legislation is needed to enforce the plan.”

Legislation on Bedouin resettlement has been suspended for a month to give Shamir and ministry officials time to study the issue.

“The Bedouin leadership is willing to accept the arrangement, but a number of people, some of them from outside the Bedouin community, are motivated by political interests,” Shamir said. “And some people in the Bedouin community are motivated by financial interests. But that doesn’t mean that most of the community doesn’t want change.”

Bedouin representatives were on hand during Shamir’s tour of the Negev. On a visit to the villages of Al-Sayyid and Hura he met with the deputy head of the Hura council.

The discussions at the Interior and Environment Committee have also been put on hold until Shamir gets acquainted with the bill. At the committee’s session last week, MK Taleb Abu Arar (United Arab List-Ta’al) said Shamir had been appointed without consultations with the Bedouin community, and that Bedouin leaders would not accept the bill even if it were changed.

“The bill is another nakba,” Abu Arar said, referring to the events of 1948 when Israel was established. “It’s based on hatred and racism.”

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