On Saturday night amid a "day of rage" in which mass protests opposed the "Prawer-Begin Plan" to organize illegal Bedouin settlement in the Negev, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Likud-Beytenu) called the violent protests "serious albeit expected."
At least 15 police officers were injured as over a thousand Arab and leftist demonstrators threw stones and caused havoc in the Negev, while hundreds more protested in Haifa, Samaria and Gaza.
Liberman said that earlier in the week he had spoken about the illegal Bedouin building in the Negev at a Yisrael Beytenu meeting, where he asked participants to look at aerial photographs of the region, especially of the northern Negev, and to compare them to photos from 35 years ago.
Commenting on the comparison, Liberman said "you don't need to be an expert in geography or demography to understand that the situation is catastrophic, and it's easy to understand what will be there in another 35 years."
Liberman continued, saying:
Therefore we must act to end the situation in which there are citizens of the country that are obligated by its laws, the planning and building laws, while there are other citizens that make a mockery of the laws and through violence have created a situation whereby the law doesn't apply to them.
This is not a social problem or a housing shortage, but rather a struggle over land, like that which already began in the 19th century with the foundation of the first (modern) Jewish communities and has continued since. Since the 'tower and stockade' (Zionist communities built overnight during the British mandate) period nothing has changed.
We are fighting over the national land of the Jewish people and there are those that intentionally try to steal that land and control it by force. It is impossible to close our eyes and run from this reality. The government must address this issue and act in an appropriate and synchronized fashion, at all levels, to deal with it, for otherwise in another generation we will find ourselves in an impossible situation.
There is no reason why in Um el-Faham they shouldn't build multi-storied buildings like they're building in Beirut, in Cairo and in Gaza. There too they don't only have one-story homes. Israel needs to take initiative and build tall modern cities for the Arab population with all the infrastructure and permits. Building permits are not only [required] for Jews!
We essentially opposed the "Prawer Plan," but in the end we agreed to support it after former Minister Benny Begin said the plan was accepted by all the (Bedouin) tribal heads and that according to it the matter would be resolved once and for all.
However in reality the opposite occurred, as we feared, and the Bedouin are just interested in getting the 'carrot,' compensations and receiving other lands, while acting by all means, including violent means, against the 'stick,' namely their obligation to vacate the lands they are illegally squatting upon.
Therefore, it is imperative to examine all of the plan anew and to weigh a plan with far-reaching consequences that will also cancel the benefits the Bedouin were supposed to receive. If there is no full agreement, there are no benefits.