ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Funding Beduin Development

Funding Beduin Development

17 April 2003

By Yisrael Ne’eman

Although the subsidiary state budget has slashed another 11 billion shekels from already dwindling government outlays the Beduin sector is to enjoy an increase of a billion shekels for the development of seven new towns in the central Negev.  The formerly nomadic beduin have been forced to settle down and can no longer wander along the Baghdad – Cairo or Damascus - Yemen trade routes due to all the international boundaries established since WWI.

At the end of the War of Independence several thousand beduin remained in Israel, most in the Negev desert.  Over the years, especially those in the more developed north began to accept government conditions and settle down in permanent villages.  In return each tribe or tribes received parcels of land, water, electricity, sewage lines, education and organized municipal services.  The settlement project was extended to the south, beginning with Tel Sheva.

Wandering bands of nomads are not considered desirable in the modern nation state.  Arab nations are also settling their beduin (especially Jordan in the Petra area).  In Israel there are tribes that acclimate and those who do not, but with time most have recognized the positive nature of permanent settlement in regard to jobs, education and health services.

In the 1970’s the traditional beduin family was adverse to changing thousands of years of traditions although today many of the younger generation favor such a move.  Close to a million dunam of Negev lands are illegally settled by beduin living in shanty towns of corrugated tin shacks and burlap/nylon tents symbolizing a poverty wrought from having lost the traditional life of wandering while not attaining the modern amenities of settled development.  Social and economic development in the beduin towns is no great bargain either as many suffer from high unemployment, crime and want.  The beduin birth rate is the highest of any in the state of Israel with many families having over ten children.

Seven new developments and the removal of tribes from government lands will help in overall integration and modernization of the beduin community.  But it must be done correctly with government aid in municipal services and self - rule in the towns.  Too often political hacks from the ministry of interior were appointed to deal with the beduin sector of which they knew nothing, doing enormous damage despite the positive government intentions.

From another perspective close to a million dunam of land can be used for other developmental purposes or revert to their natural state.  There is the national angle as well, Israel does not want beduin tribes scattered through the Negev occupying vast quantities of territory.  It is time to settle down and integrate.

Talib a-Sana, the only beduin member of Knesset considers the plan problematic since “it does not recognize the established beduin settlements” and in his eyes continues a policy of “destruction”.  A-Sana, an ardent supporter of PA Chairman Arafat who has called for a violent beduin uprising against Israel knows full well the permanent beduin settlements are recognized while the scattered shanty towns are not.  His agenda is the Arab-Israel conflict and the importance of maximum control of land by the Arabs, not the well being of Israeli Arabs or beduin.

Part of conflict resolution in the Middle East involves delineating areas for recognized beduin development and the allocation of funds for such projects.  It is a surprise such funds would be allotted during an era of intense cutbacks yet the government wants to avoid the upcoming clash between the Negev beduin and the state.  Jews and Arabs need to come to terms within the state of Israel no less than Israel and the Palestinians must find a political solution.

A-Sana and other radical Arab leaders in Israel will do their best to scuttle the initiative.

 

 

.