Former cabinet minister Benny Begin, who in the previous government was in charge of gathering and implementing right wing government proposals to Arab-Bedouin evictions, said on Monday that he never presented the bill to representatives of the Bedouin community and did not ask for their positions on the matter. The draft law is commonly known as the Prawer plan or the Begin-Prawer plan.
“I wish to again make clear that contrary to what has been claimed in recent weeks, I didn’t tell anyone that the Bedouin agreed to my plan”, Begin said. “I couldn’t say that because I didn’t present the plan to them. I didn’t present the bill that I revised to any segment of the public, including the Bedouin. The revised bill is not being presented again to the public to hear whether the amendments are to its liking or not. As a result, I would not be able to know to what extent they support the law.”
Begin made the comments to the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee and read a letter that he sent to coalition chairman Yariv Levin on the matter. Begin said it was about two years ago, in talks with the Bedouin while he was working on the bill and before it was presented in its current form, that he said “the public in the Negev does not oppose the law.” At Monday’s committee session, meant to tweak the bill ahead of its second and third Knesset readings, a memorandum of understanding between the Prime Minister’s Office and the Housing and Construction Ministry and map detailing options for expanding the Bedouin settlement in the Negev was presented to Knesset members for the first time.
Committee chairwoman Miri Regev claimed at Monday’s session that the detailed documents had been purposely kept from the committee. But Begin quoted an article in Haaretz from about six months ago that referred to the map and said that none of the committee members had asked him to examine it. Begin also noted that he had included various maps in a presentation he had previously given to committee members. “You’re a genuine racist who hates Arabs and Bedouin. This is a racist law that puts people in camps,” MK Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh said, addressing Begin.