Residents of an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev Desert, where clashes over a police attempt to demolish homes last year ended with the death of a police officer and a local teacher, agreed Tuesday night to a deal to voluntarily leave their homes and move to a nearby town.
Having fought to stay on the land for 15 years, they were told in March that their village would be razed to the ground this month.
The evacuation will make way for the construction of a new Jewish town called Hiran.
From this month until the end of August, some 170 families will move to the nearby Bedouin town of Hura, to a neighborhood built specially for them.
Those eligible — married couples, singles over the age of 24 and single-parent families — will each receive a 700-square-meter (7,535 square feet) lot on which to build their new homes. In addition, they will have the option to buy additional plots for their children, for NIS 170,000 each.
They will also be compensated for the buildings they are leaving behind, and they will be allocated grazing land for their flocks and space for agricultural projects such as orchards.
In 2015, the High Court of Justice ruled that the town could be evacuated because it was located on state land. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who heads the Authority for Bedouin Resettlement in the Negev, welcomed the deal, noting the state’s “generous offer.”
However, Adalah, a legal center for Arab minority rights, which has represented the residents of Umm al-Hiran for 15 years, said it had not been involved in the negotiations with the state because of its “principled opposition to eviction and demolition.”
In a statement, the NGO said, “Adalah sees the demolition of Umm al-Hiran and forced displacement of its residents as an act of extreme racism, embodying Israel’s colonialist land policies with the backing of the entire Israeli court system.”
It submitted a petition to the High Court on Sunday calling for the demolition of the village to be frozen.
Knesset member Ayman Odeh, head of the Joint (Arab) List, tweeted, “It’s not ‘negotiation’ when they hold a pistol to your head.”
He added, “In 2018 they uprooted a community of Arab citizens in order to settle Jews — that’s already written in the history books. In another ten, 20 or 30 years, they’ll have to look back in shame at this act and ask for forgiveness.”
The last attempt to evacuate the village in January 2017 ended in bloodshed, with a police officer and a resident killed in controversial circumstances.
As officers converged on Umm al-Hiran, resident Yaqoub Mousa Abu Al-Qia’an, 47, a teacher and father of 12, packed a few belongings into his SUV and drove from his house, telling friends that he did not wish to witness its destruction. Soon afterward, the vehicle with Abu Al-Qia’an at the wheel rammed into a group of officers, killing 1st Sgt. Erez Levi. 34. Abu Al-Qia’an was fatally shot by police.
In December, the Justice Ministry concluded its reexamination into the shooting of Abu al-Qia’an.
The case was transferred to State Prosecutor Shai Nitzan, who has yet to decide whether to close the case or summon additional officers for questioning.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.