The bill, first introduced in 2011, is a government plan to forcibly relocate some 40,000 Bedouin citizens living in dozens of “unrecognized” villages in Israel’s Negev desert. The plan has drawn heavy criticism from both Arab-Bedouin citizens, Hadash, the Communist Party of Israel and human rights groups. In the past year it has also been the source of wide-scale protests across Israel, Palestine and abroad.
At a press conference held at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv on Thursday , Benny Begin, tasked with implementing the so-called Prawer Plan, said he had recommended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “end the debate on the law” in parliament. Begin condemned all those who opposed the bill, adding, “We did the best we could, but sometimes you must face reality.” Begin said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted his recommendation to permanently terminate the current version of the bill, after citing the “undeniable opposition from across the political spectrum.”
In response to the announcement MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) stated that the Israeli government now “has an opportunity to conduct real and honest dialogue with the Negev Bedouin community and its representatives. The Negev Bedouins seek a solution to the problem of the unrecognized villages, and a future in Israel as citizens with equal rights.” On Sunday, Khenin (Hadash) called on the government to announce that it would freeze the plan and start dialogue with representatives of the Arab Bedouin population. “There are genuine alternative plans on the table and we have to advance them instead of legislation that destroys villages, expels people from their homes and offers no solution to the real problems of the inequality of the Bedouin population in the Negev,” Khenin said. MK Mohammed Barakeh, chairman of Hadash, also welcomed the move, but warned of “excessive optimism” since the plan was “still on in essence” and the “struggle for our people in the Naqab (Negev) must continue.” About 260,000 Bedouin live in Israel, mostly in and around the Negev in the arid south. More than half live in unrecognized villages without utilities and many of them are in extreme poverty.