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The fight over the plan has been contentious. Protests across Israel have left several Israeli police officers injured and led to dozens of arrests. Several human rights groups have blasted the plan. Last week, Arab lawmakers appealed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to block what they allege amounts to “ethnic cleansing” of the Bedouin.
It’s far from certain that the partnership proposal will come to fruition, but the effort represents a rare attempt at pragmatic compromise in a debate that has been dominated by dueling perceptions of reality.
At the meeting – representatives of the Arab-Jewish political party Hadash, the Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civic Equality attended – Alasam and others sounded optimistic that they could find common ground with right-wing activists even though their ultimate objectives are almost certainly incompatible.
Alasam wants the government to allow the Bedouin to stay in the unrecognized villages. Right-wing activists believe the Bedouin have no right to stay where they are.
Moshe Feiglin, the head of the Jewish Leadership faction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, voted against the plan because it “hands the Negev over to the Arabs.” Zvulun Kalfa of the Jewish Home party opposes the bill because it’s too vague.
That’s also the objection of Ari Briggs, the director of international relations for Regavim, a right-wing organization that wants to protect Israel’s lands from “foreign elements” and compel state bodies “to act based on the fundamental principles of Zionism.” Briggs says the plan is not specific enough about the final boundaries of recognized villages.
“The only reason we need to solve those land claims is so the Bedouin can move into those cities,” Briggs said. If the law doesn’t address the unrecognized villages, he added, “We haven’t solved anything.”
Knesset member Miri Regev, who heads the committee debating the bill, echoed that criticism last week when she criticized Almog for not presenting her committee with a proposed map of Negev towns.
“I think the time has come to organize Bedouin settlement,” Regev wrote on Facebook last week. “It’s unlikely that the Bedouin are taking over the Negev’s lands, and given that, the solution needs to be formulated deliberatively and in a way that’s transparent to all sides.”