Ex-general overseeing implementation of bill says he has not received any instructions to halt legislation process.
The Prawer Plan may not be shelved after all. Just four days after the co-author of the proposed law, Benny Begin, announced the halting of the bill that would see the internal displacement of some 40,000 Bedouin in the Negev, the former IDF general who heads the unit which is to implement the “relocation” told Haaretz Monday that he has not received any instructions to shelve the plan and is continuing efforts towards its implementation. Major General (res.) Doron Almog added that Begin can claim whatever he wants, but that bill is still in the legislative process.
Also, according to Israel Radio, Minister of Agriculture Yair Shamir (son of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir) and a member of right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party is taking over responsibility for overseeing the Prawer plan from Benny Begin.
According to the Israeli NGO Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights, the Knesset Internal Affairs Committee indeed convened Monday to discuss how to proceed with the bill, despite the fact that schools and many public buildings were still closed in Jerusalem due to the snowstorm. MK Miri Regev, who heads the committee, corroborated what Almog said, insisting the government has not requested the bill be pulled.
Bimkom, who cooperated with Bedouin community leaders on developing an alternative plan to that of the government’s, maintains that the current plan is discriminatory and that the logical solution is recognition of Bedouin rights to the lands they currently live on, in accordance with Israel’s standard zoning regulations.
It is worth noting that when Benny Begin, who co-authored the bill, announced its shelving Thursday, he didn’t do so informally. Begin’s announcement was part of an official press conference held at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he stood at a podium with the insignia of the Prime Minister’s Office. This begs the question: where exactly is the Prime Minister’s Office in all this? Why has Netanyahu himself not weighed in on the issue? Is this some kind of game?
UPDATE, 6:05 P.M.: Haaretz reports that although the Prime Minister’s Office has remained mum since Begin announced the shelving of the plan – officials in the PMO confirmed Monday a statement attributed to Netanyahu, expressing the need to proceed with finding a solution to this important issue for all residents of the Negev. Officials in the Knesset added that it is preferable to continue making changes to current bill rather than tossing it and starting afresh.
When news broke last week that the plan was being shelved, Bedouin citizens, human rights groups and others critics of the plan – including right-wing lawmakers – expressed cautious celebration, hailing it as a victory, since no one thought it was a possibility that the bill be scrapped.
However, as was pointed out in these pages, “the current Israeli government did not wake up overnight and decide to take seriously the grievances of its Bedouin constituents.” It appears the news today is evidence of the fact that those who oppose the transfer of the Bedouin community from their current homes still have a very long and winding struggle ahead.