The Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation passed a draft law yesterday regulating Bedouin settlement in the Negev known as the “Prawer Plan”, which will allow the seizure of approximately 700,000 dunams of the Negev and the destruction of 40 unrecognised villages. The government will present the draft law to the Knesset for approval over three readings before it becomes law.
Hundreds of “1948 Palestinians”, most of whom are Negev Bedouins, protested in front of the office of Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in objection to the “Prawer Plan”. The protestors held signs saying “Work towards stopping the Prawer Project” in Arabic, Hebrew, and English and chanted “Listen Prawer… the land of the Negev will not surrender to you.” The protest was in response to the Israeli Ministerial Committee on Legislation’s discussion held yesterday on the Prawer Plan and its plans to regulate the settlement of Negev Bedouins.
The Israeli government ratified a “plan for the regulation of Bedouin settlements in the Negev” during its earlier sessions. This decision was based on reports prepared by the Goldberg Committee and the Prawer report to relocate the Bedouins in the Negev, the Israeli government has allocated a budget for this process.
Atiya al-Aassam, head of the Regional Committee for unrecognised villages in the Negev, said in a speech before the protestors, “We want to tell Prawer, Tzipi Livni (Minister of Justice) and all decision-makers that we have endured 65 years of water scarcity and all forms of torture, and we will continue to endure and will not give up one inch of our land.” He stressed that “the Prawer Plan being passed as law aims to expel us from our land, displace about 90,000 citizens, seize 700,000 dunams of land to establish settlements on, eliminate 40 villages and concentrate the Bedouins in cities amounting to only 100,000 dunams.”
He then spoke in Hebrew and said, “I urge the Ministers not to pass their discriminatory law; do not drive us to violence.” About 200,000 Bedouins live in Israel, with over half in the Negev desert, but they do not benefit from any of the municipality’s services such as water and electricity because the Israeli authorities do not recognise them.