Over the course of the campaign, the prime minister toured Arab Bedouin communities, talking about his fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and claiming that his years of racist provocation against Palestinian citizens were misinterpreted. With the increased distrust of the Bedouin communities towards the authorities in what concerns the eviction policy including the largest number of demolitions in the Naqab during 2020, most Bedouins didn’t believe Netanyahu’s abrupt fondness.
Abbas’ “pragmatism” (versus ideology) is directed at serving the Arabs’ citizens interest by solving structural problems, such as fighting crime and promoting housing rights in the Palestinian society. This would require advancing the recognition of the still 35 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Naqab that do not appear on any official map and lack every type of infrastructure. We are talking about a population of 280,000 people living in townships, recognized and unrecognized villages, of which 74% live under the poverty line. If poverty is the cause of crime, the formula would be inversely proportional: provision of basic services, access to employment and education will decrease the delinquency rate.
Will Abbas succeed in advancing the recognition of his voters’ villages, together with their land ownership rights and indigenous lifestyle? He will probably face strong opposition.
Last December, Economy minister Amir Peretz (Labour party) promoted the recognition of three Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Naqab, to be discussed at the Cabinet- the villages of ʿAbdih, Rakhamah, and Khašim Zannih. However, due to the loud adamant ideological opposition of most of the right-wing ministers and their demand to vote the establishment of illegal Jewish outposts in the West Bank as a parallel concomitant policy step, the decision was postponed. It is highly unlikely that those far-right Jewish supremacists that opposed the decision back then, would give consent now to the alliance between Netanyahu and Abbas.
The supremacists got much stronger at the new Knesset, and they wish now to use their new power to fulfill their vision of uprooting and forcing the Bedouin into the townships. They want to use even more brutal policing to implement forced eviction on a mass scale, disregarding International Law and applying discriminatory differential enforcement. At the same time, they will push forward legalization of their own illegal settlements and “outposts” in the OPT. The Bedouin are now fearing a new wave of house demolition, accompanied with a media and lobby racist campaign aimed at criminalizing an entire community.
Now it seems that both blocks are struggling to collaborate with Abbas’ party and form a coalition, whether supporting Netanyahu, form an anti Bibi coalition, or carry the country to a fifth election.
The influence of the Arab Bedouins with the rise of Mansour Abbas is now undeniable and whether he allies with the right or the left wing, we can no longer ignore the crucial role of Palestinian citizens on Israeli politics and the urgency of treating them as citizens with equal rights.
Research and International Relations Coordinator
Photo by Oren Ziv, 23.2.2021