Israel Set to Resettle Bedouin From Unrecognized Negev Village on Temporary Site

Residents deny government claim that they agreed to plan, which calls for evacuation of Bedouin from unrecognized village where new Jewish town is to be built

A Bedouin woman in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran, February 2017.
Ilan Assayag

Israel is advancing the construction of a temporary site for Bedouin who are to be evacuated from the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert.

Under the plan, Umm al-Hiran’s residents will live at a residential site in the Bedouin town of Hura for two years until a permanent neighborhood is built for them, also in Hura. While the government body responsible for the plan — the Bedouin Development Authority — claims the residents have agreed to the plan, they deny this.

Meanwhile, work has resumed on the infrastructure for the new Jewish community of Hiran that is to be built on the village’s land.

The National Planning and Building Council will on Tuesday discuss the Bedouin Development Authority’s request to expedite construction of the temporary site. Such a request must be approved by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in his capacity as head of the Israel Lands Administration. Kahlon can sign an order exempting the Hura plan from the usual permits so that the Umm al-Hiran residents can be evacuated more quickly.

The Bedouin authority — which is under the auspices of the Israel Lands Administration and part of the Agriculture Ministry — said the request stems “from the national need to quickly advance an agreed-upon solution to evacuate the Bedouin from the Abu Al-Kiyan tribe from the unrecognized village called Umm al-Hiran.” It said accelerating the construction at Hura will make it unnecessary to forcibly evict the Bedouin from the village.

The national planning council said in a statement that the residents had agreed to move temporarily to Hura, something Umm al-Hiran residents deny.

“In recent months negotiations have resumed between the residents and the authority in an effort to bring about their evacuation by agreement,” said a council statement. “In accordance with the outline formulated with representatives of the residents, plots in the area that is expected to be approved for the expansion of Hura will be planned and developed, in a planning process that will take around two years, and afterward the housing plots will also be developed. Until the development of the plots slated for permanent housing, the residents have agreed to move temporarily to an area in Hura’s neighborhood 12.”

But the Umm al-Hiran residents say they never agreed to be evacuated from their village.

“Nothing was agreed upon; everything that’s written there is a fabrication by the authority that wants to expel us by force,” said Raad Abu al-Kiyan, the chairman of the village’s local committee. “A temporary move is not an option, and the area being offered us as permanent housing isn’t acceptable to us. We want to be part of the community of Hiran. We want a just, fair and authentic solution, not one that includes a temporary move.”

Abu al-Kiyan noted that none of the village residents has signed an agreement with the authority consenting to move.

In January, negotiations between the residents and the authority broke down. Police who came to the unrecognized village to carry out demolition orders shot a local resident, Yakub Musa al-Kiyan in his truck, which then rolled out of control and hit and killed policeman Erez Levi. According to sources in the Justice Ministry’s department for the investigation of police officers, the inquiry into that incident is almost complete and a report will be given to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who will decide whether to launch a criminal investigation against the policemen who fired.

The Bedouin Development Authority responded: “In light of the court ruling that residents of Umm al-Hiran settled on the land illegally, negotiations have been conducted in which the residents were offered residential plots on state-owned land in the community of Hura.

“The authority is working through a number of channels to provide legal status for homes of the residents of Umm al-HIran, and one of them is bringing in temporary housing through a plan that is being coordinated with the residents. It should be noted that the agreement will be developed with the residents’ consent and the authority is continuing to try to come to an agreement with them so that they can legally build their homes on state land through an orderly master plan.”