Nazareth – Late last night, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government approved the Prawer Plan Law. This law was passed by the Knesset in 2011 and it legitimizes the displacement, dispossession, and eviction of tens of thousands of Arab Bedouin citizens of Israel, while not recognizing their right of ownership of their ancestral land.
The Prawer Plan is presented as a “development plan” for the “improvement of living conditions” for all citizens of the Naqab, but with the mass expulsion of the Bedouin Palestinian citizens at the heart of the proposal. This approval paves the way for the next Knesset to implement it components, which stipulate the seizure of more than 800,000 dunams of land (about 200,000 acres). The plan will recognize around 30 unrecognized Bedouin villages, affording the residents the legal right to ownership of their homes, with a land area of around 48,000 dunams (about 12,000 acres), while the rest of their ancestral territory is confiscated.
In effect, the execution of this plan is extortion. The Bedouin are forced to acquiesce in order to win legal ownership over their homes, but in doing so they give up their rights to their land. Furthermore, the Plan entails a five-year period for the Bedouin to accept the meager compensation or lose their rights to everything. This is basically a warning from the government. They will begin demolishing all but the recognized villages to make way for the development of Jewish settlements in the Naqab in the next five years and if the Bedouin protest, they will lose what small area they have.
The Prawer Plan was designed and approved without any consultation with the Bedouin indigenous to the Naqab. The head of the Council of Unrecognized Villages responded yesterday, “We want the conditions improved. We don't accept the outlined proposal. We're all for regulating the unrecognized villages, but only in cooperation and coordination with the people living in them.”
This most recent decision is disappointing, but not unexpected. The Prawer Plan has already justified the destruction of many homes in the Naqab. However, Sunday’s decision marks a significant step forward in the spread of destruction.
The timing of this decision is also suspect. It comes in the weeks leading up to the formation of a new government (the American equivalent is a president’s lame duck period), but also the day after the High Court of Justice ruled in defense of the Prawer Plan. It will be difficult for advocacy groups to hold the new government that will form in a few weeks accountable for this abuse committed by its predecessor.
The Arab Association for Human Rights calls on the government to overturn this decision and to uphold the rights of the Bedouin Arabs of the Naqab to their land and their homes. Furthermore, the HRA would like to denounce the clandestine manner in which the ruling was processed.
Mohammad Zeidan, general director of the HRA, responded to the decision, “The Bedouin Arabs have a right to live in the lands they own and should not fear encroachment from Jewish settlements. It is not right to force an exchange of land for a promise not to destroy homes. The Bedouin land that is confiscated should not be a viewed merely as potential zone of development; this is the source of the Bedouin lifestyle and their livelihood. It destroys their indigenous way of life and forces them to integrate into a society that does not respect their traditions. To force this exchange on the Bedouin of the Naqab is to deny them their human rights.”