Reviving a controversial plan to resettle thousands of Negev Bedouin in cities, the government on Sunday passed responsibility over the matter to the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry.
Until now, the so-called Prawer Plan, developed in the Prime Minister’s Office Planning Directorate, was overseen by former cabinet minister Benny Begin.
The ministry’s head, Yair Shamir of the Yisrael Beytenu party who is son of Israel’s seventh prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, is considered more hawkish on the issue than Begin, and is expected to offer unrecognized and unplanned Bedouin communities in the Negev smaller compensation packages than those proposed in the original plan, the government’s previous attempt at arranging planned Bedouin settlement.
Taking to Facebook Sunday, Shamir wrote that “the complex reality on the ground demands comprehensive and thorough action — one that will lead to the Negev’s development and renewal.”
“We will continue the legislative process with the intention of reaching as broad an agreement as possible within the Knesset’s factions, all the while communicating with the Bedouin,” Shamir wrote.
The Begin-Prawer Plan called for formal recognition of the scattered, unplanned farms and villages of some 60,000 Bedouin in the northern Negev and the compulsory relocation of some 30,000 more from outside those areas into the newly recognized villages.
While government planners said the measure was necessary to enable the provision of basic public services long denied the Negev’s Bedouin, it drew protests from Bedouin leaders, left-leaning NGOs and supporters overseas who insisted it amounted to ethnic-based land confiscation.
In late November, demonstrations against the plan turned violent when demonstrators clashed with police at the Hura Junction in the Negev. Forty people were arrested and 15 police officers were injured in the incident.
The plan was frozen last month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after it emerged that government planners had not consulted with Bedouin leaders or residents of the encampments in its development.
However, the plan, in the form of legislation formally called the Bill for the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, is still being prepared in the Knesset Interior Committee pending a final government decision on its policy vis-a-vis Bedouin settlement.