Govt. Plans Negev Overhaul, Mass Relocation

The government plans to relocate 30,000 Bedouin as part of Negev overhaul. Arab MK warns of intifada.

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Maayana Miskin,

Illegal Bedouin shacks
Illegal Bedouin shacks
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

The government is planning to compensate and relocate up to 30,000 Bedouin living in the Negev as part of a plan to end land grabs and restructure the Negev. The cabinet voted Sunday to approve the project, which is to include major investment in the Bedouin community.

Some Bedouin representatives reacted with rage, terming the plan “an act of war.” Arab MK Taleb A-Sana warned of a “Bedouin intifada.”

The issue of illegal Bedouin construction has troubled the Negev for some time. Many Bedouin feel the land is rightfully theirs, while Israel has sought to settle Bedouin in recognized towns.

The 6.8 billion shekel plan approved Sunday, based on the Prawer report, aims to not only put a permanent end to many of the Negev’s land disputes, but also to help close the socio-economic gaps between the Bedouin community and the rest of Israel’s population.

The cabinet designated 1.2 billion shekels for programs to spur economic growth by creating employment opportunities in Bedouin towns, providing professional training, and more. Resources will also be directed toward education and infrastructure.

Left-wing groups, among them the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, have accused the government of ignoring Bedouin needs by transferring the Bedouin population to cities, forcing a change in the community’s traditional rural lifestyle. Government spokespeople said Sunday that under the new plan, the authorized communities created to replace illegal villages would be designed with residents’ input, and would be built to suit their lifestyle.