The Cabinet, today, by a vote of 16-3-1, approved Minister Benny Begin's recommendations on formalizing the status of Bedouin settlement in the Negev.
Minister Begin's recommendations were formulated in the wake of unprecedented consultations he held among Negev Bedouin, during which he and the Construction and Housing Ministry Authority on Formalizing the Status of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev officials met with over 1,000 Negev Bedouin, as well as their relevant groups and organizations.
In its decision, the Cabinet adopted the recommendations of the commission, chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge Eliezer Goldberg, in which it was proposed, "to recognize – as much as possible – each of the unrecognized villages in which there is a minimal mass of residents, such as will be determined, and which will be able to bear municipal status, and on the condition that such recognition will not contravene the district master plan." The assessment is that after the implementation of the outline, most Bedouin living in communities the planning of which is not formalized, will be able to continue living on site after the planning is formalized.
Regarding ownership claims, it was decided – inter alia – that compensation, in land or money, will be given for all of the area in question (and not just half, as determined by a decision of the previous government).
The Cabinet approved draft legislation that sets a binding framework, and allocates time, according to which if one seeking ownership will not – within five years – agree to the proffered compromise, his ownership claim will no longer have any value and the land will be registered as state land.
The plan significantly strengthens enforcement authorities in the field.
The plan accepted by the Cabinet will be submitted to the 19th Knesset as soon as a new government is established.
The Cabinet will also invest an unprecedented approximately NIS 1.2 billion in a five-year plan to promote the economic development and growth among Negev Bedouin, and will also invest hundreds of millions of shekels in developing infrastructures in Bedouin communities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "The goal of this historic decision is to put an end to the spread of illegal building by Negev Bedouin and lead to the better integration of the Bedouin into Israeli society. All governments avoided dealing with this issue, but this brave decision will facilitate the continued development and prosperity of the Negev, for the benefit of all its residents."
Minister Begin said, "This is the most extensive arrangement that the state can propose. The plan is an expression of the Government's goodwill and readiness to reach a solution. From the Government's point-of-view, it is important that the plan be set in legislation. The Bedouin are citizens with equal rights and constitute an inseparable part of the Negev. There is the responsibility to assist the Bedouin in alleviating their plight and ensuring a more positive future for their children. Now, we expect the Bedouin to respond to this proposal."
Minister Moshe Yaalon said, "This is a historic decision that all previous governments avoided making. The current situation is good only for the Islamic extremists and lawbreakers and for those who want to assail the State of Israel; therefore, it must be fundamentally changed."
Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said, "Every day that passes without a decision – the situation approaches a point of no return. Approving the law is very important also for its enforcement on the ground."
Minister Avi Dichter said, "This is the most correct, fair, generous and strong proposal that can be made today. If we wait, the situation will intensify and the price will be higher."
Minister Begin's report (in Hebrew) is available here.