Tens of thousands of Palestinian Arab Bedouin, the indigenous inhabitants of the Negev region, live in informal shanty towns, or “unrecognized villages,” in the south of Israel.
Discriminatory land and planning policies have made it virtually impossible for Bedouin to build legally where they live, and also exclude them from the state’s development plans for the region.
Since 1948, Israel has implemented forced evictions, home demolitions, and other punitive measures disproportionately against Bedouins as compared with actions taken regarding structures owned by Jewish Israelis that do not conform to planning law.
In 2020, Israel has approved a proposal declared in January 2019 calling for the forceful displacement of 36,000 Bedouin citizens. The plan also includes the confiscation of 260,000 dunams of the Negev.
The implementation of the plan, if approved, is scheduled to start this year, and would be completed within four years.
The confiscated Bedouin areas are estimated at some 260,000 dunams, on which the Israeli authorities will establish what they called “national projects”, infrastructure and other “security” measures, which are required to ‘transfer’ the population to other villages, according to the newspaper.
On the ruins of the villages after their displacement, the Israeli authorities will expand the “Trans-Israel Highway” (Route 6), south of Israel, to the town of Nabatim in the Naqab, an area of 12,000 dunams, Israeli authorities intend to transfer them to Tel Sheva, Abu Talul and Umm Batin, PNN further reports.
According to the plan, the displacement will begin this year, north of Route 31, and will last for four years. Final displacement in 2021 will begin with an annual budget increase, through intensified law enforcement authorities, in reference to the Israeli police and the Ministry of Internal Security.
Israeli authorities will also transfer 5,000 Arabs to the areas of Abu Talul, Abu Qrinat and Wadi al-Naam, from the Israeli area of Ramat Bekaa, with the aim of transferring a factory for military industries from Israel to the Negev. Authorities plan to displace them and confiscate their property.
Israel’s plan to forcefully transfer 36,000 Bedouin in the Negev is meant to make way for economic development projects and the expansion of military training areas and increasing the Jewish population in the area.
An estimated 200,000 Bedouin Palestinians who carry Israeli citizenship live in unrecognised communities, which are often denied state services including water, electricity, rubbish pick-up and education facilities, according to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI).
Although considered unrecognised, many of these villages predate the establishment of the state of Israel, while others entail Bedouins living on land they were moved to by the Israeli military after being displaced during and after the Nakba in 1948.
Israeli policies such as those previewed in Prawer II will entail mass evacuations and destruction of villages, deny Bedouin citizens land ownership rights and violate their constitutional protections.