The delusional media framing prize undoubtedly belongs to the socalled “sale of the Negev” to Mansour Abbas. We got used to associations such as “Regavim” lead an unfounded racist incitement campaign, joined indiscriminately by many on the right. But it is amazing to discover again “captured babies” on the “center-left” of the political map and on the mainstream media channels.
The urban legend goes about recognition of 16 Bedouin villages. Another legend heralded 9 villages. The Likud facebook spoke of recognition of all the unrecognized villages. No less than the Bedouin’s messiah riding the donkey of the Yemina party.
Hilarious to read serious journalists recycling rhetoric based on imagination. The truth is that the coalition agreement promised recognition of 3 villages – ʿAbdih, Rakhamah and Khašim Zannih. Just 3 and nothing more. Those who are familiar with the details know that this section of the agreement embodies a statement of intent rather than a real commitment.
And suppose the government urgently approves the recognition of ʿAbdih. Does that mean that it will be recognized? Well, no. Maybe, one day, and maybe not. In a government where Bennet is Prime Minister, Liberman Finance Minister, and Shaked Minister of the Interior in charge of planning, it is doubtful that the carriage of recognition will move fast. In a process where Yair Maayan , director general of the Bedouin Authority initiates and Oded Flos, Chairman of the Southern District Committee, approves, the process is likely to get stuck at the planning tables for months and years. It is quite possible it will fall into a sinkhole that will consume the remainder of the goodwill of some 800 residents of ʿAbdih.
And what if the liberal spirit will dawn on Liberman and Saar? and Shaked will turn her stripes, and Bennet will strive for coexistence? Even then, things aren’t too good. The decision about ʿAbdih approves the recognition of one village while at the same time erases recognition of another village.
ʿAbdih was designed under the guidance of Uri Ariel who believes in the concentration of the Bedouins in a minimal space. The proposal pushed by Amir Peretz conditions the recognition of ʿAbdih in erasing the recognition of Ramat Tziporim (Sahal Albagar). The residents , about 300 hundred in number, negotiated with the State with extraordinary patience from 2000 to 2014 to get recognition. In 2014 the village was recognized but then the State changed its mind due to planning complications and the recognition program has dissipated.
If this is not enough, the recognition of ʿAbdih is bound, by the decisions of the planning institutions, in turning 3 villages in Har Hanegev into “tourism centers” (Ramat Tziporim, Nahal Hawa and Wadi Aricha). The decision means that in these centers only temporary lodging will be allowed, namely lodging of tourists. The recognition of ʿAbdih will bring the end to the fate of 3 villages where about 400 people reside. These people will be able to pack a suitcase, book a place and come to their homes as tourists and sleep there overnight.
And it should be emphasized, ʿAbdih is just an example. The future of Rakhamah and Khašim Zannih is also shrouded in fog. We won’t elaborate. just state: the promise of recognition could be a dead letter.
Surprised? Don’t be. The village Bīr Haddāj was formally recognized in 2003, after long negotiations. Still, until today the plan has not been carried out. True, some education and community institutions were built and an access road was paved. But all the rest is on hold. Mainly, the plans for building residential neighborhoods and an industrial area raise dust. And the reason? The State, in a signed agreement, promised to allocate agricultural plots adjacent to the residents’ homes, but it didn’t promise to keep its word. The State’s denial of its pledge has put the implementation of the recognition on freeze for the last 15 years.
This is not the only case of recognition without recognition. The village al-Furʿah was recognized in 2006. In 2010 an impressive plan was prepared. But since then all is frozen. About 10,000 residents have no health clinic. The village awaits a decision concerning the mine in Sde Barir which is stuck in the tangled pipeline of planning committees and even in the High Court. In the meantime the residents wait for over a decade without a road, water, electricity and sewage. and without knowing – will they be recognized or evacuated? Along with them awaits the billionaire Idan Ofer who lives comfortably in London (by the way, if one claims that the Negev is being sold, it should be checked there).
Moreover, we were told lately that the recognition of the village Wādi an-Naʿam was approved. Plans are completed and fully ripe. The headline drafters did not mention that the plan is in accordance with the Bedouin Authority, but it is not acceptable at all to most of the residents. For example, the plan ignores the residents’ demand to allocate them sufficient agricultural land for their living. 10,000 citizens who have negotiated with the State since 1998, will keep on waiting for a plan that will take into consideration their needs and wishes.
You will probably argue that there is a commitment that within 9 months a comprehensive plan for the recognition of the unrecognized villages will be approved. Unfortunately this will not be the first time that nine birth months end in nothing. Nobody is certain that this government will last 10 months. And nobody guarantees that it will keep its promises.
A plan might be prepared and maybe even approved. And maybe a minister will come to the encampment of tents to feast on sheep and cut a ribbon. But recognition? As said, contrary to legends, recognition is a whole different game.
The headlines are designed in the virtual sphere. In reality, The Negev was sold long ago when the State refused to recognize its citizens and grant them equality. In real life, villages that were recognized 2 decades ago still live in conditions that none of us would bear for 2 days.
Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality