Bill to resettle Negev Bedouin progresses in Knesset

Mohammad Barakeh of the Hadash party tearing the Bedouin settlement bill while speaking in the Knesset, June 24, 2013. (Flash90)

Mohammad Barakeh of the Hadash party tearing the Bedouin settlement bill while speaking in the Knesset, June 24, 2013. (Flash90)

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Amid rancorous debate, the Israeli Knesset advanced a bill that would resettle Bedouin in the Negev.

The controversial Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev, which would compensate Bedouin for land claims and relocate 30,000 Bedouin to recognized communities in the Negev, passed its first reading on Monday night by a vote of 43-40.  The measure must pass two more readings.

During debate on the Knesset floor, Arab-Israeli lawmakers poured water on and tore up copies of the bill. At least four Arab-Israeli lawmakers were removed over their actions.

Also known as the Prawer Bill, or the Prawer-Begin outline due to work on the bill by former lawmaker Benny Begin, the legislation also would enable the recognition of unrecognized Bedouin villages, but only within certain designated areas that include plans for infrastructure. Other unrecognized villages would be razed.

According to the bill, “the development of the Negev, for the benefit of all of its residents, is a national task of the highest order. In order to realize this national goal to its fullest, the issue of the Bedouin settlement in Negev must first be regularized.”

About 200,000 Bedouin, who are Israeli citizens, live in the Negev.

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