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Allow me to rain on the Prawer parade

So the Israeli government is scrapping the Prawer Bill. Please allow me to rain on the parade.

A few months ago many on the Left celebrated when the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a law allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers. This week, circumventing the court’s decision, the government passed a new law  allowing the indefinite detention of asylum seekers, only this time in an “open prison.”

The Bedouin, the Left and the — not all that large — protests did not kill the Prawer bill. The Right killed this bill.

The current Israeli government did not wake up overnight and decide to take seriously the grievances of its Bedouin constituents.


Right-wing members of Knesset thought they had gone out on a limb and had been too generous to the Bedouin by granting them so much compensation and allowing so many of them to stay on their own land. When they realized that neither side actually wanted this compromise, they invoked Bibi’s new favorite phrase, stolen from scary speeches about Iran and the Palestinians: No deal is better than a bad deal.

So what will happen next? The most right-wing government Israel has ever seen will draft a new plan, without the moderating voice of now-banished old guard Likudnik Benny Begin. It will be worse than Prawer-Begin. Much worse.

Or maybe there won’t even be a new plan. Maybe they’ll just quietly evict one village at a time without any master plan that offers financial compensation or new housing. Try organizing mass protests against that.

Mostly, the result will be that Israel’s poorest and most disenfranchised citizens will have even fewer chances to build a secure, let alone better future for their families. That would have been the case under Prawer and it will be the case in a world with no Prawer.

That is not to say that anyone should have supported the Prawer Plan. It was/is a racist plan that would have displaced native Arab citizens for the benefit of Jewish settlement.

But the end of Prawer is no reason to celebrate. Not this time.


Note: Haggai Matar is slightly more optimistic about this topic. I suggest reading what he has to say too.

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    1. Andy


      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      The Bedouin have a few cards in their hands as well.

      For one thing, they can announce that if they are to be evicted off their land, they will no longer serve in Israel’s army as its field guides (and the IDF will be very hard pressed to find good alternatives to their Bedouin guides).

      Hopefully, the Druze will throw the gauntlet as well and tell Israel to go f-itself and start sending its Jewish boys and girls to the IDF to do the dirty work – work they largely reserve for Druze and Bedouin soldiers.

      Let’s see Netanyahu’s reaction to that.

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Most of the Bedouin recruits are no longer terribly useful guides. For the most part the Bedouin in the South have settled down, on state land they have stolen, and no longer have any significant advantage over other troops as guides. In any case, most of the Bedouin who serve in the army come from the northern villages, not the Negev, and the Bedouin don’t really have much of a group cohesiveness thing going.

        I have no idea what ‘dirty work’ you think it is that Druze and Bedouin do, that Jewish boys and girls don’t do. Your understanding of the matter appears obsolete.

        Reply to Comment
        • Danny

          I mean the dirty work of policing an occupied territory.

          When I was doing reserve duty in the territories years ago, there were so many Druze in every base that I lost count. Years later I understood how Israel uses these soldiers to engage the Palestinians, transferring some of the risks of death or injury to them and away from Jewish boys.

          Remember Madhat Yosef? He was allowed to bleed to death while waiting for the army to rescue him. A Jewish boy would have been rescued.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            There are proportionately more Druze in combat units, but otherwise there is no difference in the way Druze vs Jewish combat soldiers are used.

            Reply to Comment
      • ayla

        according to a Bedouin friend of mine who works in the Knesset, only a total of about 60 Bedouin serve in the IDF today. However, they do have plenty of cards to play, including legal cards.

        Reply to Comment
    3. There is a simmering battle over the rule of law. I have thought the detention center decision crucial and the Knesset’s recent act (was the 30-15 vote a final reading or does an amendment not need the three readings?) is a clear test for the Court. The Knesset’s reasoning is so bad that I think even conservative Justices will have no problem voiding it. The stage is set for an assumption of some form of direct judicial review, or Knesset Supremacy.

      The Bedouin cases similarly strike to the heart of law, especially common law dating to the Mandate, and contract law over State obligation to its (as the military) promises.

      Without doubt the ruling right coalition will try to avoid independent law. I had hoped the Knesset would do something blatantly stupid, and the detention amendment provides that. It is up to those on the High Court now. If they stand firm on detention, the Bedouin have more partial chances in law latter.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Mary Hughes Thompson


      Reply to Comment
    5. Sari Revkin

      The answer is for the Bedouins to develop a plan that they can agree on that could be a basis of negotiation.
      The no change policy or no agreement between families lets the right get away this. It is for the left to let people see the reality they must think of an alternative.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Rachamim Dwek

      Danny: Like many foreigners you mistakenly assume that Israel’s Bedouin minority are a monolithic group. They arent. The Negev Bedouin are non-indigenous and the earliest of the 7 extant tribal confederations- al Tarabin- was only established in the 1880s. More importantly, when people speak of Bedouin in the IDF they arent speaking about Negev Bedouin, but about Galillean Bedouin, a group who has nothing at all in common with those in the Negev, save ancestry that was nomadic. Their customs, dialect and worldview have no connection.

      Then, comparing Druze to Bedouin? Again an error. You seem to imagine that because neither is Jewish, that they share some common bond. They dont. Druze insist on Mandatory Induction, something all Israeli Bedouin reject.

      As for “doing Israel’s dirty work,” I can only laugh. A couple of hundred Bedouin Trackers and a few thousand Druze infantrymen versus 1.1 million Jews serving?

      Reply to Comment