This article first appeared on Arutz Sheva

Israel National News – Arutz Sheva travelled to Southern Israel with Regavim to witness up close what many call “loss of governance in the Negev,” and to find out whether construction of the three communities the government is planning for the Bedouins will solve the problem or make it worse.

“We must understand that this is a national issue – there is an illegal community spread out over hundreds of thousands of dunams, and the State of Israel should be looking decades into the future, not only at the here and now,” says Avraham Binyamin, Head of Policy, Regavim.

Looking at the ground from an aerial view, there is a clear picture of the dispersed tents and the villages.

“You can see it’s a huge swath of land, everything you see is illegal,” says Evyatar David, Regavim Southern Region Field Coordinator. “There is a tremendous amount of squatters on a vast stretch of land. No planning, no regulation, and no solution from the government for this matter.”

Israel has tried to create a solution for the Bedouins in the past, and in the late 1960s, it established cities for the Bedouin population to provide an adequate response to their needs. But, according to Regavim, that didn’t really work.

“Between 1966 and 1970, the State established seven cities, in the Bedouin area – within the ‘Sayeg’ Triangle, and told the Bedouins, come live in the cities we’ve built for you,” David says. “The Bedouins refused to enter, because under Bedouin law and Bedouin practice, if the father, grandfather and son used a particular piece of land, that land belongs to them.”

Meir Deutsch, CEO, Regavim, explains that the urban construction plan created by the State of Israel for construction of residential units can house 35,000 residents.

“In actuality, there are 12,000 residents living in Lakiya today. Why? Because most of the land in Lakiya is under claim of ownership,” Deutsch says. “The only person who decides what happens in claimed land is the person claiming it. No one else can decide what happens with that land, not the court, not the police.”

He adds: “The only homes you do see are those of people claiming ownership. Either the person claiming ownership, or their children or someone they sold to.”

These claims are far beyond logistic or legal issues. The war over ownership can escalate into violence and murder.

“Almost half the Bedouin population still live in scattered clusters, and the government wants them to consolidate within the villages and cities,” Deutsch explains. “But the Bedouin says: I can’t come live here, I will be killed.”

David notes that nobody comes in to the seven cities established for the Bedouins “because there’s an ownership claim, from a clan claiming that this land belongs to it.”

“Anyone who comes here will be shot in the head. So the government provided a solution that is irrelevant and inapplicable,” he says.

The result is that land allocated by the government, and prepared for residential construction, is empty.

“We can see the spread, and the empty fields, which are actually pieces of land on which there are claims of ownership,” David says.

He points to a neighborhood built by the government for the Bedouin community – “but it too is under claim, so no one goes to live there.”

There is an entire neighborhood in Lakiya that was developed.

David explains: “There are plots ready for construction, pillars, electricity and water, but no one will come because there is a claim of ownership. A person or family or Bedouin clan who claim the land belongs to them, and nobody can live here. Because whenever it is their land, no matter what the government says and the State claims, or what the government develops, ultimately the rules of the south are what matter.”

Other than residential issues and the takeover of the land in the Negev, Regavim also warn of internal processes that are unfolding within the Bedouin population. They emphasize that the government is unaware of the situation on the ground, and there is no law or justice at the moment.

“There are two components of Palestinization that are gaining momentum within Bedouin society,” Binyamin says. “One is related to polygamy, with women who are imported, there is trafficking of women coming in from the Gaza strip and from Judea and Samaria, and in fact we have dozens of percentages of Palestinian women and their offspring in the Negev Bedouin society, and that inevitably affects the values that society absorbs. The security services also tell us that the majority of Bedouin citizens involved in terrorist attacks are those connected to Bedouins from Judea and Samaria or Gaza, through these second and third wives.”

He adds: “In addition, Bedouin society has also been infiltrated and influenced by the Islamic Movement, the southern stream, which is connected to Ra’am, as well as the Northern, with teachers coming from the northern stream, which has already been declared illegal, teaching and imbibing these values.”

Noting that Bedouin society used to be a society of nomads, Binyamin says that it is “becoming increasingly nationalistic and Palestinianized, and that is also manifest in the huge decline in enlistment numbers, which today are negligible, nearly nonexistent.”

As Israel National News – Arutz Sheva reported, the government approved the construction of three Bedouin villages. According to the decision, the villages will be built only if 70 percent of the scattered Bedouin communities commit to leaving the land on which they are squatting and moving into them.

Noting that Bedouin society used to be a society of nomads, Binyamin says that it is “becoming increasingly nationalistic and Palestinianized, and that is also manifest in the huge decline in enlistment numbers, which today are negligible, nearly nonexistent.”

As Israel National News – Arutz Sheva reported, the government approved the construction of three Bedouin villages. According to the decision, the villages will be built only if 70 percent of the scattered Bedouin communities commit to leaving the land on which they are squatting and moving into them.

Regavim supports this decision, but demands that past mistakes not be repeated.

“We can build the villages, that’s fine, it’s the right thing to build them, provided the land the squatters are on goes back to the government in the end,” Deutsch says.

The problem, according to Deutsch, is how to include this stipulation as a condition in the government’s decision.

“We have to identify the entire population that is supposed to relocate into each village. We have to clearly define the size of the new town, where it will be, how large. We have to get the agreement of the citizens in the scattered Bedouin communities. Before they are a licensed town, they have to sign, 70 percent of them have to sign on their commitment to relocate to the permanent village. Naturally, there will be a small percentage that won’t, and the state will have to force them to relocate, and clearly in such a situation where the majority, 80 or even 70 percent come willingly, the government can handle the remaining 30 percent.”

He explains that establishing the three villages is “not the ideal situation.”

“The ideal situation is a map of the Negev for fifty years from now, that defines where the international airport is and where the trains go, where there are highways and cities and agriculture, and open areas,” Deutsch says. “Once you have that, you can decide where the Bedouin villages will be 50 years from now, and based on that, determine where to establish new communities now.”

While he says that “I don’t trust this government simply because it’s hard to trust someone who’s broken a promise,” he is willing to wait and judge them by their results.

“This government has asked us to judge them by actions, not words, so we will be judging them on that,” he says.

Regavim is publishing a book called “Bedouistan.”

“It reflects what we’d like to share with every citizen of Israel: Right under our noses, there’s a state within a state growing in the Negev,” Binyamin says. “We also point out the major problematic incidents that have plagued the Negev, which we find out about sporadically. We illustrate the problems and flaws in national planning over the years, as the State attempted to solve the problems, and of course we present our vision for the future, because ultimately, without a vision, there is anarchy, and we try to address this larger need, in order to solve the problems of the Negev.”

The Negev from above

Despite heavy pressure by the Raam Party to make substantive changes in the wording of the government’s decision, cooperation between Regavim and the staff of Minister of Interior Ayelet Shaked’s office resulted in wording virtually identical to the proposal tabled by the Netanyahu government.

Earlier today (Wednesday), the government approved plans for a new Bedouin city and three rural Bedouin communities, intended for the resettlement of residents of illegal squatters’ camps who would be brought into legal, permanent communities.

Regavim’s spokesperson noted that despite the very heavy pressure from the Raam Party to make changes in the government’s decision, the wording of the decision that was approved is virtually identical to that of the proposal tabled by the Netanyahu government. The language that was eventually adopted was the product of several months of intensive consultation and joint effort between Regavim and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s staff.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, reacted to this morning’s decision: “We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: This plan is both an opportunity, and a risk.”

“On the one hand, this plan may lead to real change in the Negev, the restoration of state lands to the government’s hands and the beginning of the process of resettlement of the Bedouin squatters who have taken over the open spaces of the Negev. This plan envisions relocation into legal, organized settlements rather than the fictitious “expansion” of existing settlements that was standard procedure over the past decade. The decision approved by the government today establishes criteria for relocating residents of the Bedouin encampments into permanent settlements according to clearly-defined timetables; if the criteria are not met, the plan to create new settlements will be cancelled.”

On the other hand, the merit of the government’s plan must be proven by action, not intentions. To date, Israeli governments have been most adept at offering “carrots” but have failed to use “sticks” and enforce the conditions of previous plans. This plan, like its predecessors, is built on carrots and sticks, and it’s up to the government to prove that it intends to see the program through – including the evacuation of the squatters’ camps and the return of state land on which the Bedouin are currently squatting illegally, to state hands. The failed policy of endless land allocations for the Bedouin sector must come to an end.”

“If the government stays the course and sees the program approved today through – both carrots and sticks – it will be the first real progress toward a better future for the Negev and for the restoration of national resources to government jurisdiction.”

Photo credit: Meir Elipur

Today, we participated in an emergency meeting organized by the Land of Israel Caucus in the Knesset to demand security and safety for the Negev.

Meir Deutsch, Regavim’s Director General, spoke to the Members of Knesset about the Negev predicament, and explained why Bedouin settlements that have been legalized are, in effect, still squatter camps.

The retrospective legalizations have not provided appropriate solutions for the Bedouin residents, nor have they solved the root problem of the loss of governance in the Negev.

The government decision to approve three Bedouin settlements and to connect illegal structures to the electricity grid could either lead to the regulating of settlement in the Negev and the Galilee, or the exact opposite: the abandonment of these areas. The devil is always in the details.

Regulating Bedouin settlements in the Negev and merging them into legal towns – yes. Encouraging more lawlessness – no.

**

Regavim has also been at the forefront against Ra’am’s Electricity Law, which endangers the rule of law. Ra’am, headed by MK Mansour Abbas, has threatened to dismantle the government coalition if its proposed amendment to the Electricity Law, which seeks to connect tens of thousands of illegal structures to the national electricity grid, is not passed.

The legislative amendment seeks to connect existing and all future illegal structures. This extortionate bill endangers the rule of law and national planning and construction policy. And it’s clear that approval of this law will result in a surge in illegal construction.

One of the state’s most effective tools against the national epidemic of illegal construction is the existing ban on connecting structures erected without a permit to the electricity grid.

Although there’s a certain degree of logic in approving electrical connections for structures for which the government intends to approve permits, a wholesale whitewashing of illegal construction would be a disaster.

Structures that lack permits should meet basic criteria to be approved:

  1. Only structures built before 2018 and the enactment of the Kaminitz Law, which included clear and enforceable criteria for construction.
  2. Only structures for which a detailed outline plan has been submitted by the state, and not by various entities such as local authorities.
  3. A bank guarantee of NIS 40,000 should be deposited. If the plan is not approved and a building permit is not obtained, the guarantee will be forfeited.
  4. If judicial or administrative orders of demolition for the structures haven’t been issued.
  5. The connection will be temporary; permanent electrical connection will be contingent on approval of the state’s plan and issuance of a building permit.
The illegal Bedouin outpost of Khan al Ahmar near Kfar Adumim

Khan al Ahmar: High Court of Justice grants the government an additional delay.  “Compromise attempts have become uncompromising contempt.”

The High Court of Justice granted the government an additional six-month delay in the Khan al Ahmar case. Regavim: Kicking the can down the road isn’t the solution, it’s part of the problem.

This morning (Wednesday), the High Court of Justice approved the government’s request for an additional six month extension of the deadline, to present to the court its plan for the evacuation of Khan al Ahmar, an illegal Palestinian Authority/European Union –supported  outpost in the Adumim Region. The decision is the most recent stage in the sixth petition filed by the Regavim Movement against what it has called “the Palestinian Authority’s flagship outpost in the systematic takeover of Area C.” In 2009, Regavim filed the first petition against this Bedouin encampment on Route 1, a few short minutes’ drive from Jerusalem, in an attempt to compel the Israeli government to enforce the law and block the PA’s creeping annexation of state land throughout Judea and Samaria.

Presiding over the judicial panel, Justice Solberg’s decision included harsh criticism of the government’s conduct: “There is no doubt that the day is fast approaching when it will no longer be possible to accept the lack of clarity in this case, which requires a clear and decisive resolution – one way or the other. Even if the various proposed solutions were sufficient cause to postpone the inevitable, it is not possible to stall indefinitely. Even attempts to reach a consensual resolution must have limits. At a certain point, these attempts become a source of contempt, and this we must not accept. Our job as judges is to bring clarity to the petitions that are brought before us; this is our task, and this is our duty. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing in the face of this continued procrastination. We intend to complete the hearing process in this case soon after the government files its reply and after we consider any further responses to that reply; either way, this case must be resolved.”

Justice Stein joined Justice Solberg’s decision, adding that “the principle of legality, which we have been entrusted to carry out and to encourage, does not allow the state to ‘sit on the fence’ for years at a time and gaze at illegal structures without taking a definitive decision to either regulate or demolish them.”

Justice George Kra expressed reservations regarding the criticism voiced by his fellow justices, noting that he “at this time I see no reason to tie the court’s hands and limit our options regarding the continued adjudication of this petition.”

The Regavim Movement, which has been at the forefront of judicial and public opinion efforts to combat Palestinian annexation in Judea and Samaria, has been waging the battle for law enforcement in the Adumim Region through over a decade of Supreme Court petitions.

Responding to this morning’s decision, Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, noted: “The chronic ‘after-the-holidays’ excuse isn’t a solution – it’s part of the problem.  In the case of Khan al Ahmar, procrastination is an attempt to ignore reality and erase hard facts. The state is attempting, for the umpteenth time, to push off its commitment to evacuate Khan al Ahmar – until after the next holiday, Passover. Procrastination won’t change the bottom line: The State of Israel must take action against the ongoing Palestinian takeover of Judea and Samaria. Khan al Ahmar has been, and continues to be, the test case for the larger strategic challenge.”

The illegal outpost of Khan al Ahmar; Route 1 can be seen in the background

The Regavim Movement reacted with concern to the state’s response in the Khan al Ahmar case, which was submitted to the High Court this evening.

The government requested an additional six month delay of the deadline to submit its official position to the court in the matter of the illegal outpost on Route 1 slated for demolition over a decade ago. During this additional half-year period, the state intends to submit a confidential document to the court detailing all the considerations that impact the enforcement of demolition orders at the site.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim, sharply criticized the state’s response, and the conduct of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“From the first day of the current government’s term, we have stressed that deeds, not words, are what count,” Deutsch said. “Today it has become clear that contrary to its oft-repeated declarations, this government is continuing along the dangerous trajectory set by its predecessor, conducting its law enforcement system according to the whims of foreign governments.”

“The root of anarchy is selective, preferential law enforcement. No sector or segment of the population should enjoy immunity from law enforcement because of international pressure while the law is enforced against other sectors.”

Regavim noted that in earlier responses to the High Court, the state explained that law enforcement at Khan al Ahmar would be postponed for fear that this would trigger proceedings in the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

“This conduct broadcasts a very problematic message to the world, intimating that the State of Israel is a guest in this territory when in fact Judea and Samaria have been under internationally-recognized Israeli jurisdiction for a longer period of time than the British Mandate and the Jordanian occupation combined,” noted Deutsch.

“The time has come for the State of Israel to exercise its rights to this territory, and to behave in a manner befitting the sovereign body responsible for law enforcement in the area according to international law and in accordance with the historic right of the State of Israel to the territories of Judea and Samaria.”

Yesterday marked the International Day of Indigenous Peoples. During the Knesset’s Finance Committee meeting, MK Mossi Raz of Meretz claimed that the Bedouin minority in the Negev are “indigenous”. We’d like to enlighten MK Raz and explain why his claim is patently false.

What constitutes an indigenous people is a complicated question that is yet to be solved. The International Labor Organization, an affiliate of the United Nations, tried to advance two covenants on the matter – but without success.

However, despite the absence of a universally accepted definition, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was adopted in 2007 states that an indigenous people is a separate political entity with unique characteristics within the framework of the state.

The main, recurring parameters of indigenousness are listed in a research paper published by Professor Ruth Kark, Dr Havetzelet Yahel and Dr Seth Frantzman.

  • Descendants of the people who were first in a particular territory.
  • People that have lived on the land “from time immemorial”, for thousands of years.
  • Presence on the land and exercising of sovereignty before newcomers arrived.
  • Experience of oppression by a foreign culture and legal regime.
  • A unique, common relationship of a spiritual nature with the land on which they live or have lived.
  • Self-identification and recognition by others as indigenous.

Addressing the question of whether Bedouin in the Negev can be considered an indigenous people, the research paper answered with an “an unequivocal No”.

Here’s a summary of the findings.

“Original inhabitants: Many groups preceded the Bedouin in Palestine in general and in the Negev in particular, including the Jewish people, which has maintained uninterrupted presence in the land since biblical times. Hence, the Bedouin can hardly claim to be the country’s original inhabitants.”

Time dimension —the so-called “time immemorial” parameter: The Negev Bedouin have been there for only 200 years. They can’t claim presence in the land before the arrival of the foreign power as the imperial Ottoman presence predated that of the Bedouin by centuries. By contrast, Jewish presence in Palestine fully corresponds to the “from time immemorial” parameter.

Sovereignty: The Negev Bedouin were never sovereign in the area. When they arrived, the Negev was already under Ottoman rule, before coming under British, then Israeli sovereign authority.

“Oppression by a foreign culture and legal regime: It was, in fact, the Bedouin who imposed themselves on established settlers in the Negev, displacing them and destroying their villages. The Ottoman Muslim order, which they confronted upon arrival, was similar to what they had experienced in the other parts of the empire from which they migrated to Palestine.”

Unique spiritual relationship to the territory: Nomadic life, by definition, precludes permanent attachment to specific territory. There is no evidence of long-standing Bedouin traditions relating to the Negev. This makes sense considering their fairly short presence there and nomadic lifestyle, and they look to the Arabian Peninsula as their historical homeland.

“Moreover, the Bedouin are not currently asking for collective land rights, rather all their claims are formulated on an individual basis (overwhelmingly by males with almost total exclusion of women), demanding the right of individuals to sell land and transfer it to a third party.

“These private demands are not congruent with the spiritual dimension parameter and even contradict it, which leads to the conclusion that the main Bedouin aspirations are for private gain and have no real collective element relevant to a campaign for recognition as indigenes.”

Self-identification and recognition by others as indigenous: the Bedouin claim to indigenousness is very new, having been raised for the first time only a few years ago. “Earlier studies did not report that the Negev Bedouin consider themselves as such, nor did the researchers make the claim that they were an indigenous people. Since Bedouin tribes in other Middle Eastern countries have never claimed indigenousness, the validity of this claim by the Negev Bedouin is doubtful”.

*****

We hope that MK Raz will stop spreading fake news.

Read the full research paper here.

Illegal Bedouin encampment in the Negev

The Regavim Movement reacted to the findings of the State Comptroller, released today (Wednesday) in a report focusing on governance in the Negev: “The government can turn the situation in the Negev around – by enacting five practical recommendations that arise from this in-depth and comprehensive report.”

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim: “This is a comprehensive and thorough report that touches upon the core problems at the heart of the dire situation in the Negev, the critical issues that impact the future of the region. Many of the issues raised by the State Comptroller have been at the top of Regavim’s agenda for years, and the report’s findings bear out all of our claims: ‘Whitewashing’ or ‘legalizing’ illegal construction in the absence of prior planning perpetuates and exacerbates the loss of state land in the Negev. The State Comptroller’s report must not be allowed to languish on a shelf and collect dust; the government must distill operational decisions from this important study and take action without delay.”

Regavim has recommended five practical steps that the government must extrapolate from the report’s findings.

1. Geographic registration: Presently, the majority of the residents of illegal Bedouin squatters’ camps in the Negev live “off the grid;” they have no registered address. Some 80,000 Israeli Bedouin citizens of the Negev hold identity cards that record only their tribal affiliation – even when the tribe to which they belong is spread across dozens of square kilometers. This is one of the central causes of the loss of governance in the Negev. It results in mass-scale tax evasion and other major losses to the state’s economy, false and duplicate reporting for benefits and services, and more.

The solution: Registration of a physical address for all residents of the Bedouin encampments based on a precise location that can be visited and confirmed by an inspector, based on 12-digit GPS coordinates. The moment a geographical place of residence is confirmed, all service provision and interaction with the government and its various authorities will be based on this address, until such time as these residents relocate to recognized, legal communities where there are standard street addresses.

2. Failure of the “legalization” method – The State Comptroller’s findings support what Regavim has been explaining for years: The rural communities of the Neveh Midbar and Al Kasum Regional Councils are nothing more than a fiction, and both the state and the residents are paying a very high price to support this fiction.

These communities were created by simply drawing “blue lines” (jurisdictional boundaries) around clusters of illegal structures, redefining them as legal communities and creating a jurisdictional umbrella, without any prior urban planning or infrastructure, in an attempt to take retroactive action against the facts on the ground created by rampant illegal construction. This ‘legalization’ method has been an abject failure, as these local authorities and the Bedouin Regulation Authority are forced to deal with the near-impossibility of providing infrastructure for unplanned “communities” – including paved roads, electricity, water and sewage infrastructure.

The non-solution: This “legalization” method entrenches and exacerbates the problems of illegal construction, massive loss of state land and inadequate solutions for the Bedouin citizens living in these communities. Yet the extortionist demands by the Raam Party in the current government coalition seek to continue this destructive practice, through the “recognition” of new settlements and expansion of “communities” in these municipalities to include additional squatters’ camps and “whitewash” them. The State Comptroller’s report leaves no room for doubt: This will make an already bad situation even worse, and will replicate the failed model of Neveh Midbar and Al Kasum.

3. Removing obstacles to development and construction processes: The “rural Bedouin communities” (with the exception of Tarabin and Bir Hadaj) were built on land for which there are outstanding ownership claims – land on which no Bedouin is willing to build or settle, and which cannot be utilized for the creation of infrastructure or other public installations. The state and local authorities’ responses to the long list of lawsuits and petitions filed by Regavim, is now joined by the State Comptroller’s report; all are in agreement that the main obstacle to development of infrastructure as well as to the building permit process is, first and foremost, the fact that towns were built on land covered by ownership claims.

The solution: The government must stop expanding municipal “blue lines” and abandon the practice of creating new communities based on pre-existing illegal squatters’ camps. The only logical path forward is to create new communities exclusively on state land, in strict adherence to all relevant professional standards for planning and infrastructure development.

Tarabin, part of the Al Kasum Regional Council

4. Creation of a Municipal Authority under the auspices of the Bedouin Authority – The fact that Bedouin municipalities provide services to the squatters’ camps that lie beyond their own jurisdictional borders, places even greater stress on local governments that are already among the nation’s weakest. Aside from the more basic question of the legality of this “arrangement” – in which municipalities are active beyond their jurisdictional lines – it invites large-scale corruption and waste.

The solution: Creation of a separate authority responsible for providing municipal services to the squatters’ camps, under the jurisdiction of the Bedouin Regulation Authority, will relieve the existing local authorities of the burden they are currently shouldering. As in all other areas of the country, the Bedouin municipalities of the Negev will maintain responsibility for provision of services only for the citizens living within their jurisdiction. This will clarify where each resident of the unrecognized settlements is to receive services, and significantly reduce double-reporting, corruption and waste. The new Municipal Authority will be a less localized body, making it much stronger and less easily manipulated than local authorities, and subject to far fewer local pressures.

Aerial photo of an illegal Bedouin encampment

5. Creation of a specialized police unit to protect infrastructure – One of the harshest findings of the State Comptroller’s report is the unfathomable destruction of national water, electricity and energy infrastructure throughout the Negev, and the staggering costs for the national economy and the Israeli taxpayer. The report indicates that national utility corporations contend with hundreds of incidents of sabotage and theft in the Negev each year: Break-ins at electricity substations, theft and damage to generators, transformers and electric lines, water siphoning resulting in tens of millions of Shekels of losses each year, and hundreds of cases of “improvised” illegal electricity hookups. Apart from the direct damages amounting to hundreds of millions of Shekels in stolen water and electricity, and the loss of tax income had these commodities been consumed by law-abiding customers, the utility companies are forced to invest heavily in security.

The solution: Establish a specialized police unit tasked exclusively with protection of infrastructure. This unit will reduce the damage to physical infrastructure components and the economic damage caused to the national economy, and cut off the massive “protection” network that has sprung up around national infrastructure installations in the Negev. The government’s investment in this specialized unit will cover itself very quickly.

Today, the General Security Service (Shabak) released details of the arrest of the Bedouin millionaire Yakub Abu-Alkiyan on suspicion of treason.

Meir Deutsch, Director General of Regavim responded: “The fact that Abu-Alkiyan, a millionaire with extensive property and business holdings who maintains close ties with leaders of Israel’s economy, passed sensitive security information to Iranian operatives proves that the rising tide of nationalism in Israel’s Bedouin sector is not connected to often-heard complaints of poverty or discrimination. This very real and very serious developing trend is an expression of radical currents that are re-shaping the Bedouin community in the Negev. Israel is now paying the price for years of denial and wishful thinking. The government must face up to reality – and there’s not a moment to waste.”

A resident of Kuseife, a legal Bedouin town in the Negev founded in 1982, decided to expand his assets, and illegally took over land part of the unrecognized Al-Fura squatters’ camp.

A few months ago, the resident, who already owns a big villa in Kuseife, began to build a huge compound containing two living spaces. The construction started without permission or supervision during the Passover holiday, seeking to take advantage of the enforcement officials being on vacation.

Regavim immediately identified the threat posed to the entire area by the massive compound, and we demanded that the enforcement authorities remove the structure and restore the land to its original state.

At the beginning of June, the construction criminal tore down the structure he built following warnings he received from the National Enforcement Unit (NEU). The swift action taken by the NEU in this case is significant. It’s ridiculous that a resident of a legal town, established by the State of Israel, can build without permits and ‘join’ an illegal Bedouin squatters’ camp. Such cases must not be repeated!

We welcome the NEU’s quick and efficient steps. We call on the authorities to hold the construction criminal fully accountable; he should clean up all the mess he left behind!

Turn on English subtitles for an explanation by Regavim’s CEO about the new “communities” discussed

What are the “new settlements” in the Negev that Raam Party leader Mansour Abbas is demanding?

When you imagine the establishment of new settlements, you probably think of architects and engineers who sit down together and plan framework and infrastructure of any new settlement down to the smallest detail.

But things in the Negev work differently. Hundreds of thousands of illegal homes and structures throughout the Negev are scattered across enormous swaths of land. The policy that Abbas is pushing for is to simply draw an imaginary blue line around each cluster of illegal structures and call it a community. Does that solve water, electricity, and construction problems? Is this a sensible, environmentally or socially sustainable utilization of the land? Of course not! Will it restore the land the state has lost to the huge expansion of illegal construction? No; quite the opposite.

The new agreement means that the State of Israel (and the Jewish residents of the Negev) will cede more and more land in the Negev for Bedouin “settlements,” and equitable, sustainable long-term planning be damned!

The bottom line is that Ra’am’s “nice ideas” are a disaster for the Negev, for Israeli sovereignty over what amounts to two thirds of the country’s total area, and for future national development.

Don’t be fooled: If Ra’am get their way, the country will essentially be split in half, with the northern and southern parts divided by a midriff section controlled by Bedouin clans – devoid of modern planning, beyond the reach of Israeli governance, a breeding ground for stunted communities with no sources of legal employment or industry and no prospects for development. The Zionist vision for the Negev and for the country will be nothing more than a distant memory.

Regavim: Protecting Israel’s Resources, Preserving Israeli Sovereignty