Bedouin land plan shelved by Israel

By Anshel Pfeffer, December 12, 2013

The Israeli government has shelved the Prawer-Begin Plan for the Bedouin villages in the Negev.

The legislation was halted amid mounting opposition within the coalition.

The most vocal criticism of the plan to recognise some Bedouin villages while relocating around 40,000 people to existing towns has so far come from the left. However, there was also significant opposition from members of the right wing, who believed the plan gave up too much to the Bedouin.

After passing its first reading earlier this year, the Prawer-Begin Plan reached committee stage earlier this week, but a majority of MKs on the committee — including some from the coalition — planned to vote against it.

“The law has to undergo significant changes,” said Likud MK Yariv Levin, the coalition chairman, this week.

“I am prepared to be generous towards Bedouin who agree to join the process. Those who don’t will forcibly be moved to the settlement areas. There should be a time limit for joining the agreement and the Bedouin who get land should have them on lease, not full ownership.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman also expressed opposition to the plan last week and accused former minister Benny Begin — who was in charge of preparing the updated proposal — of misleading the cabinet over the degree to which Bedouin leaders agreed with it.

“We must re-examine the entire plan,” Mr Lieberman wrote on his Facebook page, “and consider a new radical plan that will cancel all the benefits the Bedouin were to receive. If there is no full agreement, there is no benefit.”

The Israeli left and a large number of human-rights groups opposed to the plan have called on the government to recognise all 35 “non-recognised” Bedouin villages and cancel plans for forcible relocation.

Last updated: 11:48am, December 13 2013