The Israel Democracy Institute
4 Pinsker Street, Jerusalem
Recently, the Israeli government circulated a draft of a legislative proposal to resolve the issue of the Bedouin living in unrecognized villages in the Negev. Entitled "Memorandum of Law to Regulate Bedouin Settlement in the Negev," the proposal raises questions that demand rigorous public debate. The document's authors believe that it reflects a "historic compromise" between the Bedouin and the State of Israel regarding the land on which they live. Has everything necessary been done in order to reach an agreement with the Bedouin residents of the Negev? Is the proposed solution fair and appropriate? How is it possible to build confidence in the State among members of the Bedouin community and to integrate them into Israeli society?
On Sunday April 29, 2012, IDI's George Shultz Roundtable Forum convened a high level discussion of the proposed legislation. Panelists included former Supreme Court Justice Eliezer Goldberg, who headed a government commission on the Bedouin of the Negev; Mr. Ehud Prawer of the Prime Minister's Office, who drafted a detailed plan based on the report of the Goldberg Commission, and Minister Benny Begin, who is charged with administering the proposed plan.
Moderator: Dr. David Tadmor, Esq.
Adv. Rawia Abu Rabia
Mr. Ibrahim al-Wakili
Maj. General (Res.) Doron Almog
Mr. Nachi Alon
Adv. Itai Bar
Adv. Yoram Barsela
Mr. Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu
Minister Dr. Ze'ev Binyamin Begin
Prof. Hanoch Dagan
MK Talab El-Sana
Adv. Carmit Fenton
Mr. Daniel Friedberg
Adv. Eyal Gabay
Justice Eliezer Goldberg
Adv. Sana Ibn Bari
Dr. Alexander Kedar
Prof. Rassem Khamaisi
Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer
Ms. Ronit Levine-Schnur
Prof. Mordehai Mironi
Former MK Chaim Oron
Adv. Carmit Panton
Mr. Ehud Prawer
Dr. Yeela Livnat Raanan
Dr. Thabet Abu Ras
Adv. Ansaf Abu Sharab
Prof. Oren Yiftachel
Prof. Haim Zandber
Issues that were discussed at this event included:
- What is the relevant background for this discussion?
- What are the rights of the Bedouin to the land in question?
- What is the Israeli government's plan for the unrecognized Bedouin villages?
- What is the relation between the proposed memorandum and the Goldberg Commission's report on the Bedouin of the Negev?
- Is the solution proposed by the memorandum fair and equitable? Does it ensure broad consensus in Israeli society?
The discussion of regulating Bedouin settlements in the Negev began with a presentation of the program that has been approved by the government, objections that have been raised in response to the plan, and alternatives that have been proposed. Since the issue under discussion is one of the most complex and difficult issues facing Israel in general and the Negev region in particular, a heated debate ensued, which focused on questions of land rights, economic development, discrimination, identity, cross-cultural differences, and the rule of law.
At the start of the discussion, the tone was somewhat confrontational, with speakers speaking harshly at times. Each side presented its stance firmly, focusing on its own positions and demands and paying little attention to the needs of the other side. Nonetheless, even during the early stages of the discussion, there were signs that a search for common ground was underway and indicators that the two sides were listening—signs that became more central as the discussion progressed.
As the roundtable continued, the representatives of the State showed greater willingness to listen to the needs and suggestions brought up in the discussion, and seemed to have a greater understanding of the Bedouins' requests. A shared voice emerged and became increasingly stronger. This voice portrayed the situation of the Bedouin and the conflict between the Bedouin community and the State of Israel as a joint problem for which a solution must be found. This voice, which found support among many of the participants, argued that there is an urgent need for dramatic change in the situation of the Bedouin—a change that involves recognition of rights and settlements, as well as financial and social development.
The participants with background in mediation supported the assertion that it is critical to reach an agreement regarding the central issues through dialogue. They emphasized the possibility of reaching consensus with the assistance of professionals from the field and stressed the cost of continued disagreement. As the discussion neared its end, it also became apparent that the nature of the discourse of both sides was shifting, and was becoming more moderate and respectful. After the event ended, many participants expressed satisfaction with the content of the discussion and the manner in which the exchange of ideas had been conducted; some even expressed the hope that the IDI roundtable had opened the possibility of continuing dialogue that would advance the efforts to reach a mutually-acceptable solution to the complex and critical issues that had been discussed.
- The Bedouin Population in the Negev: Social, Demographic and Economic Factors; Transformations in an Era of Urbanization; by Arik Rudnitzky and Dr. Thabet Abu Ras. Published by The Abraham Fund Initiatives, March, 2012.
- Ronen Shamir (1996), "Suspended in Space: Bedouins Under the Law of Israel", Law and Society Review.
- Bertus de Villiers (2003), "Australia – Native Title: a Quiver of Disappointments", pp. 89-129.
For additional Hebrew resources, see the Hebrew page.