JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet approved a plan to relocate up to 30,000 Bedouin from unrecognized villages in the Negev to state-recognized settlements.
The Cabinet also approved $335 million a plan for the economic development of the Bedouin sector in the Negev Desert. The plan includes giving status to the Bedouin communities in the Negev, providing economic development and resolving claims over land ownership. It establishes a mechanism for implementation and enforcement, as well as timetables, as part of the government’s work in developing the Negev.
Part of the plan’s goal is to bring about a better integration of Bedouin in Israeli society. The plan also is designed to significantly reduce the economic and social gaps between the Bedouin population in the Negev and Israeli society as a whole, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office.
"Given the situation that has been created in the Negev, the time has come to act," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "This started with the previous government and is being decided upon by us. A decision must be made for the country and for the development of the Negev and its residents, Jews and Bedouin alike."
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Bimkom-Planners for Planning Rights condemned the vote in favor of the plan, citing the "unnecessary uprooting of tens of thousands of Bedouin from their homes against their will and in clear violation of their historical and proprietary rights to the land."
"Approval of the plan allows for the government’s continued discrimination of and disregard for one of the most disenfranchised communities in Israel during a period in which a mass protest movement in Israel has been calling on the government to instill policies that provide equal rights to all citizens," the group said.