it isn’t often that these stubborn, arrogant jews back down on anything, but they have done on the ‘prawer plan’

Withdrawal of Prawer Plan bill “major achievement” for Palestinians in Israel
Maureen Clare Murphy, Electronic Intifada, Dec 13 2013

The Israeli government today announced that it had withdrawn a bill that proposed the expropriation of land and the forcible transfer of tens of thousands of Bedouins from 35 unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the south of present-day Israel. Known as the Prawer Plan, the Israeli government scheme was met with mass protests throughout historic Palestine, including several “Days of Rage.” As Linah Alsaafin and Budour Youssef Hassan commented for the Electronic Intifada in September:

These protests have succeeded in drawing local and international attention to the threats posed by the Prawer proposal, and mobilized youth to take to the streets, including many who were not politicized. They also managed for the first time in a while to unite efforts across the fragmented sections of Palestinian society for one cause, as Palestinians in the 1948 territories, the West Bank and Gaza Strip all organized protests on the days of rage.

These protests, which faced state violence and intimidation, are being credited for making it impossible for the bill to move forward to become law, at least for the time being. While today’s announcement marks a major victory, the rights of Bedouins in the Naqab are still under threat. Haaretz reported today (below):

It is not clear whether the bill has been shelved or just temporarily postponed.

As news emerged that the bill was about to be withdrawn, some Israeli officials, such as foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, stated that in its current form, the plan had been, if anything, too generous to Bedouins. Haaretz also reported that contrary to the Israeli government’s claims, the Prawer Plan had never been approved by the Bedouin community. Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, stated today:

The withdrawal of the Prawer Plan bill is a major achievement in the history of the Palestinian community in Israel. It shows that popular action, legal advocacy and international pressure can succeed in defending the rights of 70,000 Arab Bedouin residents of the unrecognized villages in the Naqab to live with freedom and dignity on their own lands and in their villages. The government was forced to reveal the Plan’s details after intensive media attention and public activism against the Prawer Plan in recent weeks. On Nov 30 2013, thousands demonstrated against the Prawer Plan in Hura and Haifa, where they were met by police who used excessive force and made dozens of arrests. Adalah and other volunteer lawyers defended the detained protesters in court and filed official complaints to the Police Investigation Unit (“Mahash”) against the police’s violent conduct. The cancellation of the bill is a platform to continue the dedicated work in the struggle to prevent the Israeli government from implementing the Prawer Plan. The government’s plans for the Naqab will lead to the demolition, evacuation and confiscation of Bedouin homes and lands, among which is the village of Atir-Umm al-Hieran, which will be destroyed in order to build a Jewish settlement and a forest over its lands.

Israeli government halts plan to resettle 30,000 Bedouin
Ofer Aderet, Jonathan Lis, Haaretz, Dec 12 2013

Netanyahu’s government has decided to drop the current draft of a bill to resettle nearly 30,000 Bedouin living in the Negev into already recognized villages, the former minister overseeing the plan said on Thursday. It is not clear whether the bill has been shelved or just temporarily postponed. Benny Begin, an architect of the Begin-Prawer Plan, said that Netanyahu had accepted his recommendation to halt progress on the bill. He also accused critics of the plan of exploiting the proposal for their own benefit. But he said he never approached the Bedouin with the plan and thus did not receive their approval on the matter. The possibility of the bill being shelved emerged three days ago, after Begin denied claims that community leaders had accepted the proposal, a key defense used by the government in advancing the plan. Begin told the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee:

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. I couldn’t say that because I didn’t present the plan to them. I didn’t present my original bill to any segment of the public, the Bedouin or anyone else. The revised bill is, again, not being presented 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.

Today he told a press conference:

Right, left, Arabs and Jews joined hands while exploiting the plight of many Bedouin, to heat things up for political gain. We’ve done our best, but sometimes you need to recognize reality. During the drafting of the legislation, more than 1,000 Bedouin were heard, and as a result changes in the bill were introduced. I myself met with 600 of them. We didn’t just hear them out, we listened to them attentively. Some viewed my willingness to engage with the Bedouin community as excessive.

Following Begin’s remarks, coalition whip MK Yariv Levin (Likud) said the plan lost its majority support in the government. The current plan should undergo major changes, Levin said, and not be presented to the Knesset plenum for the second and third reading in the next few months. The Prawer-Begin plan outlines a proposal to resolve land-use issues related to the Bedouin. The draft legislation outlines the compensation, in money and in land, to some 20,000 to 30,000 Bedouin upon relocation. The bill was endorsed by the interim government on May 7 and approved by a slim majority in its first Knesset reading on Jun 25.

Israel suspends Bedouin resettlement plan
Ariel ben Solomon, JPost, Dec 12 2013

Former Likud minister Benny Begin announced on Thursday the government decision to suspend the government-backed Bedouin resettlement bill, pleasing opponents of the reform on the Left and Right but suggesting that the plan would be revised rather than shelved. Begin said at a press conference at city hall in Tel Aviv:

We did our best, but sometimes you have to accept reality. Right- and left-wing activists, Jews and Arabs, have tried to take advantage of Bedouin desperation to inflame the atmosphere to boiling point for their own political gain. The Bedouin are the most deprived group in Israel. The problem needs to be solved quickly. I myself met with 600 of them, and listened to them. We cannot allow a hostile takeover of the legislation or allow it to be hijacked or distorted. A delay in its implementation is the lesser evil. Netanyahu has accepted my recommendation to remove the bill from consideration. He has agreed to carry out the development plan for Beduin settlements in the coming years.

Netanyahu responded to the announcement by thanking Begin for his efforts. Earlier this week, opposition to the Prawer-Begin bill grew among Knesset members who had previously supported the legislation, leading to Thursday’s announcement. On Tuesday, Begin, who helped put together the plan and earlier had been guiding the legislation through the Knesset, said the Bedouin never agreed to his plan and never saw it. Begin’s comments upset coalition chairman Yariv Levin, who told reporters on Monday that he and others had been misled about the bill, and that major changes needed to be made to it. Levin said that he and other members of the coalition voted for the bill on its first reading believing that the Bedouin agreed to the plan. The Prawer-Begin bill is a five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Bedouin settlement in the South. It aims for a compromise solution for tens of thousands of Bedpuin scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the Negev, legalizing 63% of claimed land. Bedouin Israelis and their supporters oppose the bill because they say the legislation would result in up to 40,000 Bedouin losing their land. They have staged protests across the country to demonstrate their vehement opposition to the bill. Opponents on the Right criticize the bill as too generous, saying the state would be giving away land for free that Bedouin could not prove to be theirs in court. Levin said:

After a long struggle, the Prawer plan, which in its current form is essentially flawed, was blocked, and that is a good thing. A new plan will be drawn up to deal with the issue.

A large number of lawmakers weighed in on the announcement. MK Michal Roisin (Meretz) said:

I breathe a sigh of relief with the Negev Bedouin and Jews alike. Now is the time to invest money that the state hoped to use in dispossessing the Bedouin from their homes to supply their communities with basic water, electricity and other basic services.

MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL/Ta’al) welcomed the announcement and said:

It is necessary to bury the dangerous Prawer plan and start a deep discussion with the owners of the land and the local leaders in the Negev.

MK Z’vulun Kalfa (ha-Beit ha-Yehudi) said that the legislation that was under consideration would not solve the problem and that a different outline was needed. The bill lacked a map showing what things would look like after full implementation of the reform. Most of the bill deals with land claims, but it does not discuss how it would regulate or create settlements or infrastructure, education and health services. Ronen Shoval, founder and head of the Zionist NGO Im Tirtzu, said:

The failure of the government to pass the legislation demonstrates a lack of the ability of the State of Israel to govern itself. Israeli democracy has yielded to the violence and the dictates of foreign countries, meddling in the internal affairs of the country and using NGOs for delegitimization.

Netanyahu buries Prawer Bill
Moran Azulay, Ynet, Dec 12 2013

Former minister Benny Begin said Netanyahu accepted his proposal to suspend the Prawer Bill for resettlement of Negev Bedouins. Begin said in a press conference Thursday that the move to stop the plan to resettle Bedouins in the Negev was justified, and the initial political response the plan received was only politicians trying to stir controversy for political gain. The PMO responded:

The PM thanks former minister Benny Begin for his many efforts on the resettlement of Bedouin in the Negev. He undertook this national objective with confidence and commitment, which are worthy of appreciation. We will continue to act to solve this important issue for all of the residents of the Negev.

Begin said:

The Bedouin population is the most mistreated population in Israel. There needs to be a solution to the problem within a short time, just a few years.

Opponents charge the plan would confiscate Bedouin land and affect their nomadic way of life. Israel insists the moves are necessary to provide basic services that many Bedouins lack and would benefit their community while preserving their traditions. The government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in housing, health, public services and education for the Bedouin. Skeptics expressed concern that despite the fact that the Prawer Bill was shelved, any new outline that will attempt to regulate Bedouins’ settlement in the Negev might be worse. Raja Agabriya, an activist against the bill, said:

The government will also continue to tear down houses in unrecognized villages in the Negev.

Joy among activists was thus mixed with concern, as problems persist in terms of villages’ lack of infrastructure. The former minister said, however, that despite the decision to suspend the proposed bill, the development plan for cities in the Negev will continue using the help of the Prawer Bill’s newly-founded Implementation Unit and the Housing Ministry and Construction’s Authority for Bedouin Resettlement in the Negev. The Prawer outline is a governmental process that will resettle the Bedouin in the Negev. The plan was formed after a slow political process, and it is meant to help solve the land ownership dispute between the State and the Bedouin population in Israel. Due to the government’s intention to pass the bill, there has been a series of protests in the past weeks by Bedouins and other social activists. Netanyahu initially said after the protests:

We will continue to advance the Prawer Bill. The attempts of a violent and loud minority to prevent a better future for this large and wide-spanning population have been severe. There is and will be no tolerance for those who break the law.

But Begin said the initial blame belonged with other politicians, who attempted to take control of the bill proposal, which Begin himself advanced in the last Knesset. He said:

Ever since the debate began in the Knesset’s Interior Committee, Right and Left, Arabs and Jews banded together to take advantage of the Bedouin’s troubled situation, and they’re trying to warm the air in order to make political gains. Profiteering off their distress could give these politicians certain victories that might even gain them a seat in the Knesset in the next election, and by doing so the situation in the Negev wouldn’t improve. Just a couple of days ago the coalition chairman announced that there isn’t a majority supporting the plan with its current outline. He also announced that there needed to be drastic changes on behalf of the government. We can’t allow a hostile takeover of this bill proposal. We will not let it be hijacked and twisted up. The problem that started last month could become worse. The plan is to balance two important factors: On the one hand there is the fair monetary compensation for landowners, and on the other hand there are tough paragraphs on law enforcement for those who will try to sabotage the plan.

Ha-Beit ha-Yehudi expressed its satisfaction with the bill being suspended. Z’vulun Kalfa said:

The plan that was presented would not have solved the problem. It’s possible to solve it in a different manner. Begin’s outline only relates to 5% of the residents. He dealt with compensations, but barely touched upon resettling towns.

Government shelves Prawer Plan on Bedouin settlement
Lazar Berman, Times of Israel, Dec 12 2013

The Prawer Plan to solve the issue of unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev will be scrapped, one of the bill’s chief architects announced Thursday. Former minister Benny Begin, who worked on the bill with Ehud Prawer, head of policy planning in the PMO, indicated that there was a movement afoot to change the bill, telling the assembled reporters that the efforts to “introduce far-reaching changes in the government’s formulation” led him to call for its shelving. Begin told reporters at a press conference:

The PM has accepted my advice to delay bringing the Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev to a Knesset vote. Several days ago, the chairman of the Knesset coalition announced that there is not a majority supporting the bill in its present form. Since the bill reached the Knesset, all sorts of interest groups have gotten involved, trying to take advantage of the plight of the Negev Bedouin in order to achieve political gain. We must not allow a hostile takeover of the bill. We must not allow its kidnapping and its distortion.

The government will work to formulate a new version of the plan instead. The Prawer Plan called for Israel to officially recognize and register the vast majority of Bedouin settlements throughout the south, and compensate the residents of 35 unrecognized villages, some 30,000 to 40,000 people, who were to be moved off state-owned land into towns built for them. Despite the setback, Begin urged for a solution to the plight of the Bedouin in the Negev, calling them “the most deprived group in Israel,” and said Israel must solve its problems immediately. Protests against the bill have occasionally turned violent. Fifteen police officers were injured and 40 people were arrested during a violent demonstration that drew over 1,500 people at Hura junction in the Negev two weeks ago. The bill, also known as the Prawer-Begin Plan, was drawn up by Begin and approved by the cabinet in Sep 2011. The Israeli government said the plan would give the Bedouin the services and economic opportunities they currently lack. But where the government sees investment, many Bedouin and human rights activists said they see a land grab tinged with anti-Arab racism. In January, Netanyahu said the plan was aimed at ending the 65-year-long situation in which the state had given up control of land settled by semi-nomadic Bedouin tribes. It would also “put an end to the spread of illegal building by Negev Bedouin and lead to better integration of the Bedouin into Israeli society,” he said.

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