ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 143

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After Umm al-Hiran violence, Arab lawmakers push 10-year demolition freeze

Illegal construction ‘isn’t genetic,’ but caused by a lack of development planning in Arab communities, insists MK Ahmad Tibi

Arab Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, right, confronts an Israeli policeman in a tense standoff with Bedouin protesters in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, on January 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)
Arab Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi, right, confronts an Israeli policeman in a tense standoff with Bedouin protesters in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran in the Negev desert, on January 18, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ahmad Gharabli)

In the wake of Wednesday’s deadly violence in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, two Arab lawmakers proposed a 10-year freeze on demolition of illegal construction in Arab communities.

“It’s not an accident that there are tens of thousands of homes with demolition orders against them” in Arab communities, MK Ahmad Tibi of the Joint List told Israel Radio Thursday morning.

“It’s not in their genes. There are no development plans, no zoning plans, no expansion,” he charged.

Policeman Erez Levi, 34, was killed Wednesday morning when Umm al-Hiran resident Yacoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an rammed his vehicle into a group of cops carrying out a demolition order against homes in the unrecognized Negev village.

Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)
Police officer 1st Sgt. Erez Levi, 34, who was killed in an alleged car-ramming attack at Umm al-Hiran, January 18, 2017. (Courtesy)

Abu Al-Qia’an was shot and killed by police.

Police have accused Abu Al-Qia’an of jihadist sympathies and called the attack “terrorism” and “murder.” Residents and activists opposing the demolition orders rejected the accusation and insisted Abu Al-Qia’an was shot by police before the ramming, and was not in control of the vehicle when it occurred.

Footage from the scene was indecisive.

The new bill, introduced by Joint List MKs Tibi and Osama Saadi, would freeze for 10 years all demolition of illegal structures built by a landowner on his own land, “during which time we develop a comprehensive national solution” to zoning and development, Tibi said.

Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)
Yaqoub Mousa Abu al-Qia’an (Courtesy)

The freeze would not apply to the illegal construction in Umm al-Hiran and other unrecognized Bedouin villages, where the land belongs to the state.

Arab Israelis are forced to build illegally, Tibi insisted, because Israeli zoning bodies have failed to allocate what Arab communities require to sustain natural growth.

“You can’t throw the Arabs into the sea and complain when they get wet,” he quipped.

The bill will be considered by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday, when ministers will decide whether to grant government support to the bill.

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