Housing Minister Plans to Offer Bedouin Relocation Compensation

Meir Sheetrit's plan is to pay Bedouin to voluntarily evacuate illegal land and move to permanent settlements.

The Housing and Construction Ministry plans to encourage Bedouin to relocate to permanent settlements by offering them financial compensation, Housing Minister Meir Sheetrit told Haaretz on Wednesday.

Sheetrit decided to postpone the process of mediation between Bedouin and the state, even though the process had been recommended. "There's no time for mediation," said Sheetrit.

Bedouin have been at odds with the state for years over ownership of land in the Negev. The Bedouin claim to own 800,000 dunam of agricultural and residential land, property which comprises some 6 or 7 percent of Negev land. The land in question is currently considered state land.

Some of the Bedouin who claim ownership of this land have been relocated in recent years to other plots, which are themselves subject to ownership claims by other Bedouin. Relocation of Bedouin thus does not solve the land problem, but rather prevents the development of permanent communities.

Most of these land disputes have been dealt with either by means of judicial intervention, force or compensation.

The Housing Ministry, who is responsible for Bedouin affairs, has recently consolidated a new policy on the matter. Sheetrit said that until now, the state has failed in confronting the issue of illegal Bedouin settlement. According to the new plan, Bedouin will be offered an attractive compensation to move to legal land. Those who do not accept the payment will be evacuated by force.

Sheetrit is not prepared to move into mediation, despite the recommendation of an international institute who believe the method would be an effective way of curbing the land disputes.