Israel Drops Controversial Bedouin Relocation Plan

Israel is scrapping a controversial draft law to relocate thousands of Bedouin residents of the Negev desert, an official said Thursday.

Benny Begin, tasked with implementing the so-called Prawer Plan, said he had recommended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to “end the debate on the law” in parliament.

“The prime minister accepted this proposal,” he said at a Tel Aviv press conference, days after it emerged the governing coalition was divided on the proposed legislation.

The bill, which would have seen the demolition of some 40 unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev and the relocation of between 30,000 and 40,000 people, passed a preliminary ministerial vote in January.

But it faced intense objection from members of the parliament both from the Right, where lawmakers said the compensation in land and money offered to Bedouins was too generous, and from the Left, which said it was racist and accused the state of usurping the land of indigenous Palestinian inhabitants.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman posted on his Facebook page that the Israeli government “should re-examine the plan and consider a far-reaching plan that would annul the benefits the Bedouin were to receive.”

Following a heated debate this week at the parliamentary interior committee, coalition chairman Yariv Levin of Netanyahu’s Likud party said he would not make the Prawer Plan into law.

The move comes less than two weeks after worldwide protests against the plan, during which Israeli police and soldiers clashed with demonstrators, injuring and arresting dozens across Israel and the West Bank.

According to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the plan would have forcibly evicted nearly 40,000 Bedouin and destroy their communal and social fabric, condemning them to a future of poverty and unemployment.

Other estimates had put the number of Bedouin residents at risk at 70,000.

(Ma’an and agencies – www.maanews.net)

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