The “Day of Rage” protests held last month by Bedouin Arabs and their allies to protest the Prawer Plan were met with defiant rhetoric from Israeli officials. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to move forward with the Israeli government’s initiative to demolish Bedouin villages, uproot their inhabitants and build Jewish towns on top of them.
But two weeks after the protests, the plan has been scrapped. In a big reversal, Netanyahu’s office announced today that the plan has been killed after Benny Begin, the co-author of the plan, recommended that course of action.
The development, first predicted this week by Yariv Levin, the chairman of Israel’s governing coalition, will be welcomed by Bedouins as well as by right-wing opponents of the plan, who felt that it gave too many concessions.
On December 9, Levin said that the plan would probably be scrapped because the co-author of the plan admitted he never consulted with the Bedouins themselves about the legislation. Benny Begin, who helped draft the plan along with Ehud Prawer, made the admission during a Knesset hearing Monday on the initiative, though Bedouin activists have been making the point that they weren’t consulted for years.
“I wish to again make clear that contrary to what has been claimed in recent weeks, I didn’t tell anyone that the Bedouin agreed to my plan,” he said. And with that, Levin said that “there’s no chance of approving the second and third reading of the Prawer bill in its present form, because there is no justification to do so,” according to Haaretz‘s Jonathan Lis.
Levin’s comments came days after a government map was revealed that provided, for the first time ever, concrete details on what the Prawer Plan would actually entail, though it’s unclear if it was a working map or simply meant to swing Knesset votes, according to +972 Magazine‘s Michael Omer-Man. The map, prepared by Housing Minister Uri Ariel but never given to Bedouin communities, showed that 40,000 Bedouin Arabs would be displaced and that the state would take over 61,700 acres of Bedouin land.
The big question mark hanging over the news that the plan is scrapped, though, is what comes next. The drive to solve the “Bedouin problem,” in the rhetoric of Israeli officials, won’t be stopped because the Prawer Plan has been scrapped. Likud’s Levin has suggested that a new plan should be implemented:
The present bill should be changed significantly. I’m willing to be generous to the Bedouin that would immediately agree to join the process. Whoever won’t agree should be forcefully placed in the areas allotted to Bedouin. The agreement to join the generous outline should be limited in time, and is should be determined that the lands would only be leased to the Bedouins, not registered with the land authority as their property
Meanwhile, the status quo for unrecognized Bedouin communities–unconnected to water or electricity and bracing for demolition orders to make way for Jewish National Fund forests and new Jewish communities–holds steady.