(Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)
The Cabinet today (Sunday), 11 September 2011, approved a plan regarding the status of Bedouin communities in the Negev, based on the recommendations of the committee chaired by retired Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg. The Cabinet also approved a plan for the economic development of the Bedouin sector in the Negev.
The issue of Bedouin communities in the Negev has accompanied the State of Israel since its establishment, with no tangible progress to date regarding a solution. Against the background of increasing gaps between Israeli Bedouin and Israeli society as a whole, and on the basis of the Goldberg committee recommendations, the Government formulated a comprehensive and balanced plan to resolve the issue.
The plan is based on four cornerstones:
1) Providing for the status of Bedouin communities in the Negev;
2) Economic development for the Negev's Bedouin population;
3) Resolving claims over land ownership; and
4) Establishing a mechanism for binding, implementation and enforcement, as well as timetables.
The plan is part of the Government's overall activities in developing the Negev; its goal is to bring about a better integration of Bedouin in Israeli society. The plan is also designed to significantly reduce the economic and social gaps between the Bedouin population in the Negev and Israeli society as a whole.
The sphere of community status includes a comprehensive planning process, in the framework of which existing communities will be expanded. Residents will be absorbed into the Abu-Basma Regional Council; communities will also be established in the framework of the Be'er Sheva District masterplan. The nature of the communities - agricultural, rural, suburban or urban - will be adapted to the nature of the population and in cooperation with it. It is estimated that places of residence for 2/3 of rural Bedouin will be provided nearby.
In the sphere of economic development, the state will allocate NIS 1.2 billion to the plan. This will focus on advancing engines of growth with special emphasis on women and young people in the fields of employment and its supporting infrastructures. Advancing these populations will contribute to the increased economic growth of the entire Negev Bedouin population. The plan will focus on the development of industrial zones, the establishment of employment centers in the communities, professionl training, etc. Resources will also be directed to fields that support employment, education centers, infrastructure (including public structures and transportation), social affairs and residents' personal security. All of these are expected to significantly advance the employment situation in the sector, and residents' and the communities' economic situations, and improve their quality-of-life.
Ownership claims over land will be dealt with in a unified and transparent method to be provided for by law and according to which compensation will be provided for in significant amounts of land and funds. Thus, for example, every land ownership claim by a claimant who holds land, the status of which will be fully provided for, will receive 50% of the claim, as opposed to the 20% being currently offered.
The seriousness of the state's intentions also finds expression in what was decided upon regarding its preparations to implement and enforce the plan. The proposed solution will be put into binding legislation. Accordingly, the state will reorganize and strengthen the enforcement mechanism.
The Government is preparing to implement the plan. Today, the Cabinet also approved the establishment of a Prime Minister's Office implementation team. It will have overall responsibility for implementing the plan. The Negev Bedouin Community Status Authority will be the main body vis-a-vis implementation of the plan in the community and land spheres.
The Cabinet appointed Minister Benny Begin to coordinate public and Bedouin population comments on the issue, in the framework of formulating draft legislation. In the coming period, the relevant officials will meet with members of the Bedouin population. Minister Begin will submit the main points of the comments to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation prior to the tabling of draft legislation in the Knesset.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that, "Given the situation that has been created in the Negev, the time has come to act. 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."