Bedouins in Embattled Negev Village Sign Deal to Relocate

Umm al-Hiran residents to move by the end September in exchange for plots of land and compensation

The evacuation of Umm al-Hiran.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

The residents of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran in the south have signed an agreement to relocate to a community adjacent to the Bedouin town of Hura, where they are to receive about 90 plots of land on which to build homes, and compensation for the ones they are leaving. Details of the agreement were announced by the government on Wednesday.

In March, the authorities announced that they would evict the residents by the end of this month, but the agreement now provides for their relocation by September. The Umm al-Hiran residents had initially rejected an offer to move to the Hura area.

A source who had been involved in the negotiations, which were conducted late Tuesday night in Umm al-Hiran, told Haaretz that the agreement was reached following the intervention of Moti Cohen, commander of the police’s Southern District, who mediated between the two sides in an effort to avoid the violent eviction of the residents. The police director of Arab affairs, Yaniv Shlomo, was also heavily involved.

The chairman of the Umm al-Hiran residents committee, Ra’ad Abu Alkiyan, confirmed to Haaretz that “an agreement in principle” had been reached. The residents, he said, signed the pact because they had no alternative. “I would have been satisfied to remain in my home, but this agreement means there are no more losses, no more crying mothers, no more blood and no more pain.” The authorities, he said, need to realize that “it’s impossible to solve anything, any conflict by force.”

Another resident, Salim Abu Alkiyan, said there were hard feelings in the village over the plan. “We feel humiliated, defeated,” he said.

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel, who oversees the Bedouin development authority in the Negev said: “The right combination of determination on the part of law enforcement together with a generous offer on the state’s part produced a result that all of us welcome: an agreed-upon evacuation without violence by the residents of Umm al-Hiran, in accordance with the court’s ruling.”

Last year, hundreds of police officers raided Umm al-Hiran after negotiations over the residents’ relocation broke down. One of them shot a villager, Ya’akub Abu Alkiyan while driving his car. He then sped up, striking and killing one of the policemen, Erez Levy, before dying himself.