Bottom Shekel / Civil Rights Groups: Prawer Plan for Bedouin Won't Work

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel argues that the conditions the Prawer Report sets for recognizing Bedouin villages are prejudicial.

The solution proposed in the Prawer Report to the problem of unrecognized Arab villages in the Negev desert will not be effective, according to the Regional Council of Unrecognized Arab Villages in the Negev and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

The Prawer plan, compiled by a panel headed by Ehud Prawer, head of the Policy Planning Department at the Prime Minister's Office, contradicts the Goldberg Report, they maintain.

Bedouin, El’arajib
Eli Hershkowitz

That report, penned by a committee headed by former Justice Eliezer Goldberg, called on the state to make every effort to recognize the existing Bedouin villages. But the Prawer plan involves moving anywhere from 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin from their homes for no justified reason and against their will, according to the detractors. Ghazi Abu-Kef, head of the Unrecognized Villages council, says the Bedouin were not consulted about the Prawer Report and that this simply perpetuates the practice of steam-rolling over the Bedouin, providing no real solution.

Other representatives of the Bedouin argue that the villages may not be recognized but that they are settlements by any meaning of the word. Each has hundreds to thousands of residents, despite the fact that they have no basic infrastructure. The committee headed by Goldberg ruled that the Bedouin have been wronged and the injustice needs to end. "Instead of that the Prawer plan involves moving thousands of people out of their homes," said one of their representatives.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has submitted its objections to the Prawer Report and argues that the conditions it sets for recognizing Bedouin villages are prejudicial. These include meeting minimal levels of population density, contiguity and economic sustainability. The criteria established, the organization maintains, flout principles of equality and justice in the distribution of resources. "If the same criteria were applied to the Jewish population, whole settlements - including community settlements, observatories, kibbutzim and moshavim - would be doomed," the association notes.

Moreover, according to its claims, Bedouin villages are planned without considering the needs of the population, which is largely agrarian and rural, not urban. The association also opposes making any planning for the Bedouin conditional on settling disputes over land ownership.

The association argues that the Prawer Report deviates from the Goldberg Report, which opposed demolishing illegal homes and that these should be defined as a "gray area" until an agreed upon solution is found. Nor does the association approve of the legislative process, on the grounds that it is unilateral and ignores the rights of the Bedouin as a native minority entitled to ownership of land by virtue of traditional use of that land.

It should be noted that the Bedouin are not unified and have no consensus leadership. Their tribal, clannish structure splits the community, making it difficult for its members to reach a consensus. However, it is likely that many members of the Bedouin community will oppose the state's plan. That is why the state wants them to make a decision on the matter as quickly as possible. For that reason, it has imposed a limitation on how long negotiations may continue, which it intends to enforce it with a heavy hand.