The unit, which will be made up of 200 police officers, will be established in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office in order to enforce Israeli land laws in the Negev.
By Yanir Yagna Haaretz 17 April 2012
Israel Police is establishing a new unit to enforce demolition and evacuation orders served to scattered Bedouin villages in southern Israel, in order to deal with “trespassing into state lands.”
The unit, which will be made up of 200 police officers, will be established in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office to enforce Israeli land laws in the Negev.
Solar panels springing up on the roofs of Bedouin houses in the Negev.
|Photo by: Eliyahu Hershkowitz|
The unit’s establishment follows a government decision reached last August, in which Minister of Internal Security Yitzhak Aharonovich was granted permission to begin deploying the officers beginning August 1, 2012. Israel Police’s Southern District has yet to announce an official plan of operation, which will be charged with evacuations and demolitions.
The unit will operate alongside the Interior Ministry, the Israel Land Administration, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Prime Minister’s Office among others.
The plan to establish the new unit was received with harsh criticism from Negev residents, who claim that the use of force by police as a means to solve the land dispute is the “wrong move.”
“We do not need the police in order to reach an agreement. We must sit down and solve the issue through negotiations,” said Ibrahim al-Wakili, who heads the regional council of unrecognized Bedouin communities in the Negev. “We are not interested in a confrontation with the police…the police previously used violent force against young children.”
Israel Police’s Southern District has refused to comment on the matter.
The announcement of the unit’s establishment comes less than a month after a five-year economic development plan for Israeli Bedouin was approved by a steering committee in the Prime Minister's Office, as part of operational plans for relocating tens of thousands of Bedouin to officially recognized communities.
The proposal calls for the relocation of up to 30,000 Bedouin from areas not recognized by the government as residential locations. Known as the Prawer Plan, it was approved by the cabinet in September, based on a proposal developed by a team headed by the director of policy planning in the PMO, Ehud Prawer. At that time, the cabinet also approved a NIS 1.2 billion economic development program for Bedouin Negev.
Israel's contentious Bedouin relocation plan passes PM's Office panel
'Prawer Plan' calls for relocation of up to 30,000 Bedouin from areas not recognized by the government as residential locations.
By Jack Khoury Haaretz 28 March 2012
A five-year economic development plan for Israeli Bedouin has been approved by a steering committee in the Prime Minister's Office, as part of operational plans for relocating tens of thousands of Bedouin to officially recognized communities.
The proposal calls for the relocation of up to 30,000 Bedouin from areas not recognized by the government as residential locations. Known as the Prawer plan, it was approved by the cabinet in September, based on a proposal developed by a team headed by the head of policy planning in the PMO, Ehud Prawer. At that time, the cabinet also approved a NIS 1.2 billion economic development program for Bedouin Negev.
An unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev.
|Photo by: Alberto Denkberg|
Moving the plans on a stage, the steering committee, which gave its nod of approval on Monday, said the development plan includes increased support for officially recognized Bedouin local authorities and improvement of living conditions, community life and economic standards in the recognized communities. The plan calls for the involvement of 16 different ministries and agencies, including the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, and the Education, Transportation, Energy and Water Resources, and Housing and Construction ministries. Among the many officials who attended Monday's meeting was Prawer himself.
The announcement of the committee decision this week falls the same week as Land Day, being marked on Friday to commemorate the anniversary of protests over government land policy in Israeli-Arab communities. This year the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in the Israeli-Arab community has called for the main Land Day protest march in Israel to be held at the site of an unrecognized Bedouin community in the Negev that is due to be evacuated.
In September, the cabinet's approval of the Prawer committee's recommendations was slammed by protesters, who claimed the Bedouin were not consulted. The cabinet decision called for communities and employment centers for the Bedouin to be established along three main routes - the Rahat-Be'er Sheva road, the Shoket junction-Tel Arad road, and the Be'er Sheva-Dimona road. The communities' boundaries are to be drawn based on existing farming patterns and the inclusion of land allocated by the government.
The plan also includes giving alternate land to relocated Bedouin who can prove they owned land until 1979. Others will receive monetary compensation. The plan also provides for recognition of some unrecognized communities in areas that the regional master plan for the greater Be'er Sheva area has already designated as residential.
A total of some 70,000 Bedouin currently live in unrecognized villages in the Negev.
Carrot and stick
The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee and the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages are waging a campaign against the Prawer plan. One of the campaign organizers, Said Harumi, said he viewed the plan to provide assistance to the recognized Bedouin communities as part of an effort to convince Bedouin in unrecognized communities to relocate there.
"It's clear that it's part of a carrot and stick policy," he said. Harumi called on the government to also provide financial assistance to unrecognized Bedouin communities, rather than, as he described it, "causing the uprooting of tens of thousands of people and trying to satisfy them by economic support and development someplace else."
The PMO steering committee has underlined the fact that the relocation plan will be carried out in coordination with the heads of local authorities. In the next several months, the southern district directors of the government ministries involved are also expected to meet with local Bedouin leaders to discuss the details of how the plan will be carried out in each individual Bedouin community.
Maj. Gen. (res. ) Doron Almog, the chief of the staff in charge of implementing the relocation, said: "The plan will be carried out in full cooperation with the council and authority heads and planning agencies, and through the regional steering committee that will be convening within the next several months. The plan for development and economic growth seeks to bring about a substantial improvement in quality of life... of the Negev Bedouin."
For his part, Sheikh Faiz Abu Sahiban, the mayor of Rahat - the largest of the recognized Bedouin Negev communities - welcomed the allocation of government funding but said that should not be interpreted as favoring the Prawer plan to relocate Bedouin from unrecognized villages.
ADALAH PRESS RELEASE
25 March 2012
Adalah, Bimkom, the RCUV and Arab Bedouin Living in the Naqab File Objection to Plans for Israeli Army "Intelligence City"
- "Intelligence City" will forcefully displace thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel currently living in unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev)
- Objectors argue that Israeli army plans to move military bases from a populated area in the center of the country to a populated area in the south is ignoring options of uninhabited army-controlled land
(Beer el-Sabe, Israel) On 19 March 2012, six residents of unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages in the northern Naqab (Negev) filed an official objection (Hebrew) with the Southern District Planning and Building Committee in Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) to government plans to build "Intelligence City". The Israeli army plans to consolidate several military bases located in the central region of Israel, east of Beer el-Sabe in the south, where the unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages lie. The objectors argued that residents of villages included inside the area slated for "Intelligence City" have filed land ownership claims in the 1970s, but the State has ignored their applications. The objection was filed by Adalah, Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, the Regional Council of the Unrecognized Villages (RCUV) on behalf of the residents; it was drafted by Planner Cesar Yehudkin of Bimkom and Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara.
Intelligence City is planned to be composed of 5,000 dunams of land and to lie between the Arab Bedouin towns Laqiyya and Umm Batin. It will have six-story buildings covering an area of more than 600,000 square meters. The area designated for the development is surrounded by several unrecognized Arab Bedouin villages, populated by more than 9,000 people. Around 2,000 Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel live inside the area where the military complex is to be built. Some of their villages have been in existence since before Israel's establishment, while others were created by order of the military government in the 1950s for Arab Bedouin moved from their ancestral land to the Siyag region of the Naqab. Much of the rest of the area inside Intelligence City is used by the Arab Bedouin for farming and grazing, drinking water collection and irrigation, and even a cemetery.
Despite the land ownership claims submitted Arab Bedouin residents, the objection emphasizes that the plan for Intelligence City notes that the area is "state land". Further, past governmental plans, including the Beer Sheva Metropolitan Plan and the Goldberg Committee recommendations, referred to these villages, and sometimes even suggested granting them recognition. Some land ownership claims are still pending. Village residents also have pending objections and suggestions filed to various planning committees. Approval of the plan for Intelligence City renders the procedure of objections meaningless, contrary to principle of the rule of law and to planning and building laws in Israel.
The objectors added that the stated goal of the plan is to transfer military intelligence bases from a crowded area in the center of the country to a populated region in the south that will become not less crowded in a short time. This plan disregards vacant, uninhabited land that the Israeli army controls and could build on without displacing Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel.The objectors concluded that approving the plan will gravely damage the constitutional land ownership rights of the Arab Bedouin residents of the region, and that demolished and evacuating the village contradicts Israel's Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty.