FORUM, ON-SITE VISIT TACKLE SHARP EROSION OF CONTROL IN THE SOUTH
(Jerusalem, Israel) – The non-profit research institute Regavim conducted two events over the Sukkot week focusing on the sharp rise of squatting and illegal settling of vast tracts of land in the country’s Negev region. An emergency public forum, under the title of “Which Way for the Negev?,” was held in Jerusalem’s Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Organized by Regavim International Director Ari Briggs, Minister of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein was the keynote speaker.
Its panel of experts included Prof. Rafi Yisraeli and Dr. Seth Frantzman. The special presentation concentrated on spiraling illegal building by the Negev’s Bedouin inhabitants and challenges to Israeli rule of law as well as solutions to counter the mounting crisis. “Regavim deals with very complicated issues of land rights, which have become increasingly urgent. To reclaim the land and assert Israel’s sovereign control, the organization engages in ongoing research and legal action to succeed in this mission,” said Minister Edelstein. “We must break the merry-go-round cycle of lawful eviction of illegal settlements followed by the immediate return of illegal squatting if we truly care about ensuring Government plans for Israeli Bedouins, which will benefit the entire population of the Negev.”
The second panel dealt with solutions to the challenges in the Negev: Roni Flamer CEO of The Or Movement described the close cooperation they have with Regavim in building new communities in the Negev. Meir Deutsch of Regavim and the author of the research paper Yesh Pitaron (There is a solution) described the political and social solutions available and the importance of understanding what is going on in the field and addressing all issues when working on a comprehensive solution.
The second part of the Regavim fact-finding events was an eye-opening tour to the sites of illegal activities for over 150 participants in three full busses of English-speaking Israelis and tourists, each led by experts. One site visited was the village of Al-Zarnog which is built on private Jewish land and is currently the subject of a court case in which Regavim is assisting its legal landowners. “Our intention is to conduct more of these events to educate the public about the true facts on the ground and to increase pressure on the Government to effectively enforce Israel’s sovereignty in the country’s national lands, including the Negev,” said Briggs. “There has been much attention focused on settlements deemed ‘illegal’ in the West Bank, including forced evacuations. Far less in the public eye have been the shocking illegal land grabs in the Negev.”