Adalah, the legal centre for Arab minority rights in Israel, has called the Israeli government’s decision to withdraw the Prawer Plan bill a “major achievement in the history of the Palestinian community in Israel.”
On 12 December, former Israeli cabinet minister Benny Begin announced at a press conference that the government is withdrawing the proposed Prawer-Begin bill. The draft law was set to be considered for a second and third reading in the Knesset until Begin admitted earlier this week that the bill faced sweeping rejection from the Bedouin community, contrary to government assertions that they had approved of the plan. The bill was proposing to forcibly displace up to 70,000 Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab, or Negev, where many have lived for generations.
Adalah stated in a press release that the cancellation of the bill “shows that popular action, legal advocacy and international pressure can succeed in defending the rights of 70,000 Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognised villages in the Naqab to live with freedom and dignity on their own lands and in their villages.”
Adalah described how the Israeli “decision to withdraw the bill follows the recent disclosure of maps, figures and details that echoed the numerous statements made by Adalah, human rights organisations and international bodies, which argued that the Prawer-Begin bill was created without consultation with the Bedouin community and without transparency to the villagers that it would effect.”
The centre further pointed out that: “The government was forced to reveal the Plan’s details after intensive media attention and public activism against the Prawer Plan in recent weeks,” noting that the Israeli police tried to suppress the widespread public activism against the bill by using “excessive force” and making “thousands of arrests”, adding that “Adalah and other volunteer lawyers defended the detained protesters in court and filed official complaints to the Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”) against the police’s violent conduct.”
The statement continued: “The cancellation of the bill is a platform to continue the dedicated work in the struggle to prevent the Israeli government from implementing the Prawer Plan. The government’s plans for the Naqab will lead to the demolition, evacuation and confiscation of Bedouin homes and lands, among which is the village of Atir-Umm El-Hieran, which will be destroyed in order to build a Jewish settlement and a forest over its lands.”
The rights centre concluded that: “The state must recognise the Arab Bedouin citizens’ historical ownership of their lands, grant legal recognition to the unrecognised villages, and provide full services, infrastructure and proper living conditions that are denied to the Bedouin residents of the Naqab. Adalah remains committed to the struggle for the rights and recognition of the Bedouin villages, alongside local partners and international human rights actors.”