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Planning and Construction Committees Monitor

Objection to the creation of a new settlement – under the guise of a new neighborhood – Our Planning and Construction Committee Monitor discovered that the Southern Region Planning Authority has been actively working toward creating a new Bedouin community, called Bir al Hamam – but misrepresenting it as a new section of Tel Sheva in order to circumvent the government’s decision that no new communities would be built without approval of the political echelon. The area set aside for this project is some 2800 dunams, and is intended for relocation of some 150 Bedouin families that are currently living in illegal encampments – on land slated for the next stage of the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6). According to our investigation, there are two pre-existing plans for massive new neighborhoods in Tel Sheva on land already under the municipality’s jurisdiction. These two plans would provide more than ample solutions for the relocation of the families in question, with room to spare. As a result of an internal conflict within the Bedouin community, the residents of Tel Sheva have announced that they will object to the relocation of the outsiders to their township.

The Bedouin Authority and the Planning and Construction Authority decided to forego the existing plans and to spend enormous sums for the planning and development of a new settlement. In order to circumvent the government’s decision, the Bedouin Authority decided to classify Bir al Hamam as a “neighborhood” of Tel Sheva, despite the distance between them. As a result, they filed a request with the Geographic Commission of the Ministry of Interior to extend the municipal boundaries of Tel Sheva to include this distant tract of land. In a hearing on this request, we submitted objections to this underhanded plan based on the feasibility of meeting the needs for relocation of the ‘Route 6 families’ within the already-existing plans for Tel Sheva.

On-site legalization of Bedouin squatters camps – In June, Minister of Finance Amir Peretz instructed Yair Maayan, Director of the Bedouin Authority, to organize “in situ regulation’ for 3 squatters camps: Kasham Zanah, Avdah and Rakhmeh. This would provide them with recognized status, which would require the state to provide electricity, water, sanitation, education and other services, despite the fact that these encampments are illegal. The absurdity of this ‘instruction” is that government approval is required to regulate each and every one of the settlements, but only one of them (Avdah) has received such approval. We turned to the Bedouin Authority for confirmation of this information, and asked to receive timetables for the creation of these new settlements. At the same time, we noted the fact that they do not have the authority to carry out this plan without a government decision regarding each of the settlements. We will continue to follow this issue closely.

Blocking “wholesale whitewashing” under the cover of the corona pandemic – In recent months we uncovered a document issued by the Planning Authority as a response to the corona crisis, recommending “significant action toward in-situ regulation of most of the Bedouin population and accelerated infrastructure development in these communities.” In practice, this short statement suggests that the state retroactively legalize illegal construction in Bedouin encampments, and grant legal legitimacy to all the structures and compounds scattered throughout the Negev. The result would be the de facto abandonment of the state’s longstanding policy and decades of investment in efforts to regulate Bedouin settlement in organized, modern settlements that provide basic infrastructure and a reasonable standard of resources to populations aggregated in urban and rural centers. Following our expose, the Bedouin Authority denied its connection to the  document and its contents. We will continue to track this issue.