Opinion |

With Its Electricity Law, Israel Is Recognizing Bedouin Conquests

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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Bedouin schoolchildren heading home in the Negev region.
Bedouin schoolchildren heading home in the Negev region.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

This is how, while law enforcement institutions and the political establishment had their eyes wide shut, Israel’s Bedouin secured the Electricity Law: Dunam by dunam, house by house, drug smuggle by drug smuggle, unconcealed marijuana fields, gun and ammunition thefts (also conducted openly–watch the videos they posted), extortion of homes and businesses, theft of water, building materials, cars, gasoline and electricity; and an alternative economy, in which “taxes” are paid to gang leaders.

With perseverance, openly and without resistance, the Bedouin have advanced to the point that the state of the Jews recognized their state: Bedouiland. Last week in a historic Knesset vote, this state, which effectively subtracts the heart of the central Negev from the state founded by David Ben-Gurion (“If we do not hold on to the Negev, we will eventually lose Tel Aviv“), received de facto recognition.

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Some are burying their heads in the Negev’s sands. What’s the big deal? All they did was whitewash the (intolerable) status quo, in which thousands of illegal buildings are connected illegally to utilities, mainly electricity, putting lives in danger. Very humane. But – and it is a big but – in so doing we determine, in both theory and practice, that the piratical construction that extends over hundreds of thousands of acres will become permanent. Let’s recall that the so-called Kaminitz Law was suspended as a preface to the Electricity Law. Thus, the government put an end to existing plans to help the residents of the “Bedouin dispersion” to move, at almost no cost to them, to planned communities built by the state connected to modern infrastructure.

In 2005, the state of Israel tore Gush Katif from itself. Now, after the Electricity Law, it is ripping away large parts of the Negev too. In the area that extends eastward from Be’er Sheva nearly to Dimona, and southward from Be’er Sheva to the mountains of the central Negev, an independent regime will be established that will operate – and already does operate – according to Bedouin law. The neighboring state, Israel, will pay for this regime, according to the provisions of the most recent national budget.

It’s one thing that the Labor Party, which adheres to Ben-Gurion’s legacy the way Likud adheres to that of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, voted against Israeli sovereignty in the central Negev. And so be it when it comes to the centrist parties, to which sovereignty and settlement are, and always were, abstract concepts. But it is hard to understand how Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar, an experienced politician and ostensibly a man of the right, voted, together with Likud colleagues in the Knesset, for a law that hastens his and their political end.

This is how, especially when it comes to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, after he broke his vows – “I will not let [Yair] Lapid be prime minister even in a rotation,” and “I won’t establish a government with the United Arab List” – many of his voters have lost faith. Now the very last of those who are still hanging on with him are struggling to understand what led him to put the entire weight of his office behind an unfortunate law that could very well lead him into the political wilderness. After all, only a month ago, when Bennett looked out over the Bedouin city of Rahat, he spoke his vision and said: “Militias are operating in the south like in the Wild West … We are moving from defense to offense.” Then came the Electricity Law, which Bennett gave his life for, and encouraged these militias to gallop toward new conquests.

This extreme zigzagging shows that here is a man who, in order to remain prime minister, is willing to pay exorbitant, even irresponsible, national costs. This behavior must be a concern on the national level. For if this is the structure of his personality, then we can expect from Bennett the same patterns of thought, behavior and action also in response to the supreme national challenges set for us by Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran.

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