Cabinet to Vote Today on Proposal for Negev Bedouin

The cabinet is expected to vote today on the recommendations of a government-appointed committee on land ownership claims and the development of Bedouin communities in the Negev. The decision to raise the topic at the weekly cabinet meeting was made after the High Court of Justice dismissed a petition submitted by Regavim, a nonprofit association whose mission, according to its website, is "to ensure responsible, legal and accountable use of Israel's national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation."

In its petition Regavim argued that in the wake of last week's election the government is in effect a caretaker government and is attempting to push through major changes to its own resolution from September without allowing cabinet ministers to study them.

Bedouin-rights activists, meanwhile, also expressed anger over the decision to discuss and vote on the recommendations for Bedouin development drawn up by the panel, which was headed by Minister Benny Begin, and based on a modified version of a proposal issued over a year ago by the government-appointed Prawer committee. The Bedouin-rights activists, like Regavim, questioned the timing of the decision as well as the propriety of submitting the plan to a vote when it had not been published and, more important, had not been presented to the Bedouin themselves first.

Figures close to the issue said the reason for the cabinet vote is that Begin is winding up his term in the cabinet and had asked that the recommendations of his panel be put to a vote to prevent delay. At least one of these sources also suggested that the expected entry of Naftali Bennett's Habayit Hayehudi into the coalition may also have been a factor.

The Prime Minister's Office stated that the recommendations were drawn up months ago and their submission to the cabinet was postponed after the election was called.