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Israeli Bedouin relocation plan put on hold

The representative of the unrecognized Bedouin localities is not encouraged by the shelving of the governmental relocation plan: "In the end, the Bedouin will be forced to accept a solution that they do not want."
A Bedouin man, wearing a T-shirt reading which reads: "Don't destroy my home", stands in the village of Alsra, one of the dozens of ramshackle Bedouin Arab communities in the Negev desert which are not recognised by the Israeli state, in southern Israel August 18, 2013. For decades Arab Bedouins have eked out a meagre existence in the Negev desert, largely under the Israeli government's radar, but now many will have to make way for new developments. Israel has already invested around $5.6 billion to build m
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The Begin-Prawer Law has been shelved. Fear in Israel of a widening rift with the Bedouin community and the demonstrations they held against the controversial plan have played their part. The person who initiated halting the current effort to organize Bedouin settlement in the Southern Negev region is one of the two people signed on to the law: Likud member and former minister Benny Begin. Having witnessed the intensity of the opposition to the law from both the right and the left, Begin recommended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he put a hold on all moves that require its approval. “We did the best we could,” said Begin at a news conference he organized on Dec. 12, “but we have to face up to reality.”

So now what? It is obvious to all the parties that they have to come up with an alternative plan. As long as the current situation persists, the state is unable to approve the unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and will continue to demolish illegal buildings constructed there. But in an interview with Al-Monitor, the Chairman of the Regional Council for Unrecognized Localities Atia al-Assam makes it seem as if the path to a solution that would be agreeable to all the parties will not be easy. He says that the law's having been shelved is just a respite in a larger struggle over the future of the Bedouin population. It wasn’t the demonstration against the plan that led to it being frozen, he said. Actually, he credits opposition from the right: “The people who really had an impact on the plan were from the right-wing parties. They explicitly said, ‘We’re giving too much to the Bedouin. They don’t deserve it.'”

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