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Arab-Israeli Knesset Members Call Bedouin Resettlement Plan ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset called the plan to resettle Bedouin in the Negev an “ethnic cleansing” and said it violates international law.

The letter was delivered to Kerry on Thursday, during the U.S. official’s visit to the region to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

The letter, signed by United Arab List – Ta’al Party lawmakers Ahmed Tibi, Ibrahim Sarsour, Masoud Gnaim and Taleb Abu Arar, a Bedouin who lives in the Negev, also said that some of the Bedouin villages had existed “since before the founding of Israel, but Israeli governments have refused to recognize the settlements and have neglected them.”

The Bill on the Arrangement of Bedouin Settlement in the Negev would compensate Bedouin for land claims and relocate 30,000 Bedouin to recognized communities in the Negev. It passed its first reading in the Knesset in June by a vote of 43-40. The bill is expected to come up for its second and third readings during the current winter session of the Knesset.

Also known as the Prawer Bill or the Prawer-Begin outline because of the work on the bill by former lawmaker Benny Begin, the legislation also would enable the recognition of unrecognized Bedouin villages, but only within certain designated areas that include plans for infrastructure. Other unrecognized villages would be razed.

About 800 opponents of the plan demonstrated outside the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court Thursday. They also called for the release of over a dozen protesters arrested last Saturday during a demonstration against the plan.

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