Prize for lawbreakers: Connection to water grid

Bedouin Authority allows permanent connections to water grid for illegal Negev Bedouin communities due to lack of policy on matter.

Mordechai Sones,

Irrigated poisoned-ivy patch?
Irrigated poisoned-ivy patch?
Regavim

Yair Ma'ayan, director general of the Bedouin Settlement Authority, recently ordered the upgrading of water connections in an illegal enclave, and to allow every household a permanent connection to running water through a family water meter, while significantly reducing the price of water for each family.

Over 2,000 illegal Bedouin clusters have spread over the Negev, spanning some 500,000 dunams.

Legally, it is possible to connect water only to buildings with legal building permits, but a High Court decision of about a decade ago allowed each group to connect to the water network with one pipe in order to enable its residents to meet their basic needs in a judicial form of drip irrigation technology. That decision may have aided todays problem reach its current dimensions.

This morning, reporter Assaf Pozaylov revealed that the directive has already been implemented, and in the last few weeks three illegal villages have been connected to the water network near Be'er Sheva Prison.

"For years, the State has declared that it intends to regulate the illegal population dispersion and relocate it to permanent settlements, both in order to provide Bedouin citizens with full rights, and to preserve land reserves - the most valuable resource in Israel," says Amichai Yogev of the Regavim Land Preservation watchdog organization in the Southern District.

"One of the most effective incentives in convincing Bedouin to move to legal, permanent settlements is the understandable desire of dispersed Bedouin to receive infrastructure and services that they don't have today," added Yogev.

Regavim's legal department has long since sent a letter to Minister Uri Ariel who is in charge of the Bedouin Authority, asking for information on the source of the decision and how a comprehensive and systematic connection is to be made to tens of thousands of illegal homes, ostensibly contrary to the Planning and Building Law. Minister Ariel did not respond to repeated inquiries.

"The decision to allow water connections to the illegal population means establishment and legalization of thousands of illegal villages, sanctioning the small Bedouin minorty takeover of an area ten times larger than Tel Aviv," the organization adds. "We still do not know whether Ariel himself is a partner in the move, or he just decided to turn a blind eye to the fact that the Director General of the Bedouin Authority, a government official, has decided to set policy on his own."


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