The controversial Prawer Plan to resettle residents of illegal Bedouin settlements underwent a second and third reading on Monday, despite earlier announcements that the bill would be dropped.
The plan would grant Negev Bedouins 180,000 dunam (45,000 acres) of state-owned land for free, as well as "compensation" for their relocation from illegal outposts.
The bill garnered controversy from both sides of the political spectrum. Arab and leftist groups objected to the forced relocation of 30-40,000 Bedouin Arabs; nationalist MKs argued that the plan rewarded the Bedouin population for engaging in illegal land grabs.
MK Miri Regev headed the meeting, which was held by the Knesset Committee for Internal Affairs and Environmental Protection. Attorney Tomer Rosner, the legal counsel for the session, opened the meeting by stating that the government seeks changes to the bill - due in part to public feedback.
The discussion was supposed to focus on the details of government compensation, but quickly veered into demands to bring in Benny Begin. Begin is the former minister who was tasked to implement the plan, but called on the government to scrap it instead earlier this month.
Regev vetoed the demands. "The Knesset will discuss the bill for as long as the government has not scrapped it," she stated. Regev also declared that she would be meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the plan later Monday night.
Throughout the debate, several Arab MKs protested the terms of the bill, and also objected to the fact that the bill was being continued despite earlier announcements that it would be dropped.
MK Basel Ghattas (Balad) equated the plan with persecution. "In every discussion, I feel myself in a position of someone who has been out sentence against him and is negotiating the terms of his death or prison sentence," he claimed. "It's hard for me to propose amendments when even the total of the amendments will not cause an existential change in the legislators' intention behind the law."
"So this will improve the conditions of execution, or dispossession, exclusion and deportation," he elaborated. "How do you improve the conditions of an expulsion?"
MKs from other Arab parties then continued to attack the law, accusing Regev and the Prime Minister of corruption and "racism."
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg also joined the fray. "Is this is intentional disinformation?," she accused. "I have a concern, that either the government has made a move to reassure the public and then continued to advance the law, or that there is chaos within the government." Zandberg also claimed that the public does not support the plan.
Pinni Badash, Mayor of the Negev city of Omer, rebuked the Arab MKs. "You are doing an injustice to the Bedouin," he said. "If I was Bedouin, I would be running and signing the law with both hands."
Badash related to the original cause of the issue: "Every day, the Bedouin [population] builds illegally on Negev land."
"If the law allows us to run to the courts every time this happens, we will keep at it for the next fifty years."
"The country is bankrupt and hundreds of thousands of acres are being given out for free," he continued. "We are suckers and idiots."
MK Ghattas responded, "You're an idiot," leading the discussion to devolve further.
Regev eventually broke up the debate, declaring that a different section of the bill would be discussed again the following week.