In recent weeks there have been several developments in the government’s plans to address the land issues faced by Israel’s Bedouin population in the Negev and promote economic development in the area.
Bill for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev
The 8 June saw the resignation of Major General Doron Almog, who was in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office’s planning authority to implement the government’s plans to regulate Bedouin settlement in the Negev. Although the Bill for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev was frozen in December following the resignation of former Minister Benny Begin, Almog’s authority had been working alongside the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Yair Shamir MK (since he took over Begin’s position in January), to progress the plan.
In a letter to the Jerusalem Post, Shamir’s office explained that in order to improve efficiency, Almog’s office will be combined with the Agricultural Ministry although no further details about the controversial legislation were released.
Plans to make environmental improvements in Bedouin communities were announced on 9 June, when the government approved an additional budget of NIS 42m, to supplement the existing NIS 40m budget. According to the Environmental Ministry, the additional budget will be used to advance waste disposal, particularly in areas which lack any formal waste disposal systems. Among the local authorities to benefit from the aid will be Rahat, Hura, Kesefia, Lakiah, Segev Shalom, Arara BaNegev, Tel Sheva and the Neve Midbar and Al-Kasom regional council.
Environmental Protection Minister, Amir Peretz told the Jerusalem Post, “This is another step in the path toward environmental revolution in the Bedouin communities, which will receive from us the most advanced means for treating hazards and preventing air, river and ground pollution.”
Alongside these developments, Israeli Police forces and the Israel Land Administration began razing the unrecognised village of Al-Arakib on 12 June, after the Ramle Magistrate’s Court rejected an appeal by residents against eviction notices that were issued on 21 May.
The residents of Al-Arakib have been evicted 50 times in the last 15 years and are engaged in a lengthy legal dispute with local government over land ownership. The villagers maintain that they own the bank on which the village is built and were forcibly evicted from their land by the Israel Defence Forces in 1950. Meanwhile, the state argues that the land was taken over by the state in the early 1950s because it had been abandoned and that the attempts to settle it that began in 1998 were illegal. The matter is currently being deliberated by the High Court of Justice.