The Israeli government authorised on Sunday the construction of two new towns in the Negev Desert on land partly occupied by a Bedouin tribe.
The community of Hiran will be built for the national-religious community while the town of Kassif is to be marketed mainly to the strictly-Orthodox.
The planned towns are supposed to include over 14,000 homes and are opposed by a wide coalition of environmental, human-rights and Israeli-Arab organisations.
The decision was timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the death of Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who passionately believed in Jewish settlement in the Negev.
Some opponents of the decision are activists supporting the 500 residents of the Bedouin village Umm al-Hiran, who claim that the new Jewish community of Hiran will take up their grazing lands. The government claims that the plans take into account the needs of Umm al-Hiran, which is officially “unrecognised” by the planning authorities.
Meanwhile, last week, the Knesset Interior Committee began a series of hearings on the “Prawer Law” which passed its first reading in June and will set legal guidelines for the resettlement of about 40,000 Negev Bedouin living in “unrecognised” villages.