Addressing the Prawer Plan for the regulation of Bedouin settlement in the Negev, Internal Affairs Committee Chairperson MK Miri Regev said Monday that ”those who believe the Bedouins are the sovereigns– and not the State of Israel – are mistaken. We will pass a measured law that will preserve state-owned lands and regulate the ownership over the lands and the development of the Negev.
”Any deviation from these principles, including violence on the part of the Bedouins, will be dealt by the law enforcement authorities with a heavy hand, particularly during the `day of rage,` which is scheduled to take place in a few days,” she said. ”No one is above the law.”
MK Regev said the law, if enacted, would be ”fair to the State, the Bedouins and the Jewish settlement.”
Regev was speaking during a debate on a bill which calls to officially recognize and register the vast majority of Bedouin settlements throughout the Negev, and compensate the residents of 35 unrecognized villages — some 30,000 to 40,000 people — who are to be moved off state-owned land into towns built for them.
Over the past few weeks Bedouins have held a number of protests against the bill. Some of the demonstrations turned violent.
During the debate, Benny Begin, who drafted the Prawer Plan, read out a letter in which he accused the National Democratic Assembly party of incitement. In response, MK Talab Abu Arar said: ”You have proven that you are a racist; an Arab hater.”
Other Arab MKs were also outraged over Begin`s comments, and some of them were escorted out of the hall. ”This is a racial law, directed at a specific population,” said MK Mohammad Barakeh, while MK Masud Ganaim said, ”The Arabs have realized their natural right to resist. The Arab-Palestinian nation is united against the plan.” MK Hanna Swaid, ”You are seeking the transfer of an entire population.” Regev replied cynically: ”Yes..Just like the Americans did to the Indians.”
According to MK Jamal Zahalka, the Arab public believes the law is part of an attempt to ”banish them from their lands.” He said: ”Is what you have taken until now not enough for you?”
The debate also focused on the ”compensation committees,” which hear the claims of the Bedouins and determines their eligibility for land or the compensation they deserve in case they are resettled. Some MKs were critical of the dominance of the Prime Minister`s Office in determining the make-up of these committees. MK Tamar Zandberg said the Bedouins do not have real representation in these committees, while MK Abu Arar said the law ”cannot be implemented on the ground. It will lead to an intifada in the Negev.”