The Bedouin in the Negev, numbering approximately 210,000, is one of
many communities which comprise Israel's pluralistic society.
Unfortunately, historically this community has been ranked low in
Recognizing that the Bedouin of the
Negev need assistance, the government of Israel created a comprehensive
policy - called the Begin Plan - aimed at improving their economic,
social and living conditions, as well as resolving long-standing land
this end, Israel has allocated approximately 2.2 billion dollars (8
billion shekels), including over 330 million dollars (1.2 billion
shekels) for specific economic and social development projects.
This January 2013 policy
- named after then-minister Ze'ev Binyamin (Benny) Begin - is designed
to solve a wide range of problems affecting the Bedouin population.
Among the numerous initiatives that have begun or are planned are the
expansion of technological and adult education, the development of
industrial centers, the establishment of employment guidance centers,
assistance in strengthening Bedouin local governments, improvements to
the transportation system, centers of excellence for students and
support for Bedouin women who wish to work or start businesses
.Ahmed Al-Karnawi in his greenhouse in Rahat in the NegevAs
part of the Israeli government's efforts to reduce Bedouin
unemployment, he and other Bedouin have received government plots to set
up small agricultural businesses. Al-Karnawi cultivates roses (which
he exports abroad) and vegetables. (Copyright: MFA free usage)
is working with the Bedouin community on all aspects of the Begin Plan.
Indeed, the plan was developed through dialogue and in close
coordination with the Bedouin: In an attempt to expand on the previous
Prawer Plan, Minister Begin and his team met with thousands of Bedouin
individuals and organizations during the development stage. As a result,
Bedouin traditions and cultural sensitivities were taken into
consideration, and a plan was formulated to reinforce the connection of
the Bedouin to their culture and heritage.
to some claims, Israel is not forcing a nomadic community to change its
lifestyle. The Bedouin in the Negev, who moved to the area starting at
the end of the 18th century, began settling down over a hundred years
ago, long before the establishment of the State of Israel. By now, most
Bedouin citizens live in permanent homes.
Still, one of the
major problems facing the Bedouin is housing. Almost half of the Negev
Bedouin (approximately 90,000) live in houses built illegally, many of
them in shacks without basic services. Isolated encampments and other
Bedouin homes may lack essential infrastructures, including sewage
systems and electricity, and access to services such as educational and
health facilities is limited.
There are solutions to this problem
and to the many other difficulties facing the Bedouin. For example,
under the Begin Plan, the government is giving every Bedouin family (or
eligible individual) that needs it, a resident plot. These lands are
being developed to include all the modern infrastructures and will be
granted free of charge. Bedouin families can then build houses according
to their own desires and traditions. Those that move will be offered
their choice of joining rural, agricultural, communal, suburban or urban
A street in the Bedouin village of Drijat, "the first Bedouin solar village"
village was converted in 2005 to a modern solar village by a
governmental project of a multipurpose solar
electricity system. Thus, many houses, the school, the mosque and the
street lights in Drijat are powered by solar panels. (Copyright: MFA
of the Bedouin citizens will remain in their current homes. 120,000
already live in one of the seven Bedouin urban centers or eleven
recognized villages. Of the remaining 90,000 that live in encampments or
communities that are not zoned, only 30,000 will have to move, most of
them a short distance (a few kilometers at most). The other 60,000 will
have their homes legalized under Israel's initiative, which will develop
their communities and grant the residents property rights.
has been made of those Bedouin who will have to move. However, almost
half of them (14,000-15,000) have settled illegally within the danger
zone of the Ramat Hovav Toxic Waste Disposal Facility. Given the threat
to their health, and even lives should there be an incident at the
facility, the government of Israel has an obligation to relocate these
The Begin Plan will also resolve land claims made by a
number of Bedouin in the Negev, most of which have been in dispute for
decades. Currently, there are 2,900 land claims regarding 587 square
kilometers (227 sq. miles). Although these claims have no legal basis
under Israeli law (and were not recognized under the previous Ottoman or
British land law systems), Israel wants to resolve the issue. It will
do so by adopting a compromise according to which all the Bedouin
claimants will receive compensation in land and money equivalent to the
full value of the land claimed. The Bedouin will no longer have to
engage in lengthy court cases while the compensation process will be
based on the principles of fairness, transparency and dialogue
There have been attempts to attack the Begin Plan (which its detractors deliberately
the Prawer Plan in order to associate it with an outdated proposal).
Many of those acting in the international arena against Israel's plan
for the Bedouin belong to the camp which seizes upon any opportunity to
harm Israel's reputation. Others have purer motives, but have based
their opposition on false information distributed by Israel's opponents.
This opposition is unfortunate, particularly for the Bedouin
who will benefit greatly from the Begin Plan. This new policy
constitutes a major step forward towards integrating the Bedouin more
fully into Israel's multicultural society, while still preserving their
unique culture and heritage.
Most importantly, the Begin Plan
guarantees a better future for Bedouin children. No longer will they
have to reside in isolated shacks without electricity or proper sewage.
Now they will live closer to schools and will be able to walk home
safely on sidewalks with streetlights, alongside paved roads. They will
have easier access to health clinics and educational opportunities.
Their parents will enjoy greater employment prospects, bettering the
economic situation of the whole family. To oppose the Begin Plan is to
oppose improving the lives of Bedouin children.A classroom in the Regional
Center for Education and Rehabilitation of Disabled Bedouin Children
(suffering from C.P.) in the town of Tel Sheva in the Negev. The center,
financed by Israeli governmental ministries, currently accommodates
around 140 children with C.P., from pre-kindergarten to post
high-school age, and will in the future accommodate 500 pupils.
(Copyright: MFA free usage)