Members of the Knesset Interior Committee, headed by MK Miri Regev (Likud), toured areas of the Negev on Sunday as part of the decision-making process on the law to formalize Bedouin settlement in the area.
According to the law, which has been approved on its first reading, Negev Bedouin will be awarded about 180,000 dunams of land (45,000 acres) of state land, where they can set up farming or urban communities. The land will be given to them for free. The giveaway is part of a deal to organize Bedouin settlement in the Negev, where many illegal Bedouin villages have been set up on state land.
Many of the Bedouin are squatting on state land, but instead of evicting them, the state is offering to “compensate” them for much of the value of the land with a cash payment – as well as provide them with a new parcel of land.
Many of the villages stand in the way of important security, housing, transportation, and industrial projects the state would like to proceed with.
Numerous Bedouin youths attempted to argue with Regev, hurling epithets and curses at her and other MKs on the tour. Most Bedouin towns called a general strike to protest the visit. Arab MKs who are members of the Committee boycotted the tour.
Arab MKs have been leading the opposition to any compromise on the issue, and last week ejected several Arab MKs from a discussion on the matter. But according to Regev, several Bedouin leaders with whom she spoke Sunday expressed support for the process of formalizing the Bedouin settlement issue.
“We will not allow anyone to threaten the state,” said Regev. “We will do whatever is necessary for the state and for the Bedouin Negev.”