Contentious Bedouin relocation plan passes PM´s Office panel (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Jack Khoury 03/28/12)
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A five-year economic development plan for Israeli Bedouin has been
approved by a steering committee in the Prime Minister´s Office, as
part of operational plans for relocating tens of thousands of Bedouin
to officially recognized communities.
The proposal calls for the relocation of up to 30,000 Bedouin from
areas not recognized by the government as residential locations.
Known as the Prawer plan, it was approved by the cabinet in
September, based on a proposal developed by a team headed by the head
of policy planning in the PMO, Ehud Prawer. At that time, the cabinet
also approved a NIS 1.2 billion economic development program for
Moving the plans on a stage, the steering committee, which gave its
nod of approval on Monday, said the development plan includes
increased support for officially recognized Bedouin local authorities
and improvement of living conditions, community life and economic
standards in the recognized communities. The plan calls for the
involvement of 16 different ministries and agencies, including the
Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and the Education,
Transportation, Energy and Water Resources, and Housing and
Construction ministries. Among the many officials who attended
Monday´s meeting was Prawer himself.
The announcement of the committee decision this week falls the same
week as Land Day, being marked on Friday to commemorate the
anniversary of protests over government land policy in Israeli-Arab
communities. This year the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in the
Israeli-Arab community has called for the main Land Day protest march
in Israel to be held at the site of an unrecognized Bedouin community
in the Negev that is due to be evacuated.
In September, the cabinet´s approval of the Prawer committee´s
recommendations was slammed by protesters, who claimed the Bedouin
were not consulted. The cabinet decision called for communities and
employment centers for the Bedouin to be established along three main
routes - the Rahat-Be´er Sheva road, the Shoket junction-Tel Arad
road, and the Be´er Sheva-Dimona road. The communities´ boundaries
are to be drawn based on existing farming patterns and the inclusion
of land allocated by the government.
The plan also includes giving alternate land to relocated Bedouin who
can prove they owned land until 1979. Others will receive monetary
compensation. The plan also provides for recognition of some
unrecognized communities in areas that the regional master plan for
the greater Be´er Sheva area has already designated as residential.
A total of some 70,000 Bedouin currently live in unrecognized
villages in the Negev.
Carrot and stick
The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and the Regional Council of
Unrecognized Villages are waging a campaign against the Prawer plan.
One of the campaign organizers, Said Harumi, said he viewed the plan
to provide assistance to the recognized Bedouin communities as part
of an effort to convince Bedouin in unrecognized communities to
"It´s clear that it´s part of a carrot and stick policy," he said.
Harumi called on the government to also provide financial assistance
to unrecognized Bedouin communities, rather than, as he described
it, "causing the uprooting of tens of thousands of people and trying
to satisfy them by economic support and development someplace else."
The PMO steering committee has underlined the fact that the
relocation plan will be carried out in coordination with the heads of
local authorities. In the next several months, the southern district
directors of the government ministries involved are also expected to
meet with local Bedouin leaders to discuss the details of how the
plan will be carried out in each individual Bedouin community.
Maj. Gen. (res. ) Doron Almog, the chief of the staff in charge of
implementing the relocation, said: "The plan will be carried out in
full cooperation with the council and authority heads and planning
agencies, and through the regional steering committee that will be
convening within the next several months. The plan for development
and economic growth seeks to bring about a substantial improvement in
quality of life... of the Negev Bedouin."
For his part, Sheikh Faiz Abu Sahiban, the mayor of Rahat - the
largest of the recognized Bedouin Negev communities - welcomed the
allocation of government funding but said that should not be
interpreted as favoring the Prawer plan to relocate Bedouin from
unrecognized villages. (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 03/28/12)
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