It’s Not Just Settlers Who Oppose Israel’s Plan To Relocate Bedouin In West Bank

A Civil Administration plan to settle West Bank Bedouin in a new community north of Jericho has met with opposition not only from settlers but from the Bedouin themselves. The Bedouin say the project is part of plan to evict thousands of Bedouin from their tents, that they were not consulted, and that the plan would merge Bedouin of different tribes, which clashes with their tradition.

According to a report in Maariv on Tuesday, the defense minister has shelved the plan due to opposition by settlers.

The Civil Administration wants to put together Bedouin from the Rashadiyeh, Kaabneh and the Jahalin tribes, all of whom maintain a traditional lifestyle based on raising and herding sheep and goats.

Part of the Rashadiyeh tribe, who were evicted from the Ein Gedi area when Israel was established, live in three groups in the area of Nu’eimeh, north of Jericho, near the site where the Civil Administration wants to build the new community for them. They were forced to move to the Nu’eimeh area a quarter century ago from an area east of Ramallah, where they were not able to graze their flocks.

In 2010, the Civil Administration issued demolition orders for dozens of tents and shacks built at Nu’eimeh, but the High Court of Justice prohibited the demolition. Issam Aruri, head of the Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, which represents the Rashadiyeh community, told Haaretz that the State Prosecutor’s Office pledged that an alternative community would be built for them nearby.

Over the past seven years, during hearings on other petitions demanding that the Civil Administration prepare master plans for Bedouin communities and not only for settlers, the prosecution and the Civil Administration gave similar responses − that the Bedouin would be resettled in permanent communities in the West Bank.

Master plans

A senior official in the Palestinian local government ministry told Haaretz that as long as Israel rules Area C − the West Bank area under both Israeli military and civil control − the Civil Administration must prepare master plans for the Palestinian inhabitants of the area. However, the residents’ lifestyle must be taken into account and they must be consulted.

The Rashadiyeh Bedouin initially agreed to the plan because they thought the community was going to be rural and only for their tribe. Only in 2012 did they realize that the plan had grown and now included three tribes, and that their part of the community consisted of two out of nine neighborhoods.

The Civil Administration’s plan apparently changed in April 2012, after the Civil Administration abandoned a plan to forcibly move Jahalin Bedouin living near the Khan al-Ahmar, north of the settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, to an area near the Abu Dis city dump, which the Jahalin fought via their lawyer Shlomo Lecker.

The Kaabneh and the Jahalin were expelled to the West Bank from the Be’er Sheva area after the establishment of the state. In 1967 they were forced to move again due to Israeli construction, IDF training zones and nature reserves in the Jordan Valley. The members of the three tribes are registered with UNRWA as refugees.

The plan calls for construction of the community on about 1,600 dunams (400 acres) of land out of a total of some 1,350 acres registered as state land already during Jordanian rule. A representative of the Bedouin said that more than 1,000 lots, each of half a dunam and for a single home, were to be built there. In comparison, according to Alon Cohen-Lifshitz of Bimkom − Planners for Planning Rights, a new plan for the Israeli settlement of Rotem calls for 200 housing units on 1,500 dunams.

A representative for the Bedouin told Haaretz on Wednesday that the planned community “will be a social and economic disaster for us because of the unacceptable proximity of different tribes and the lack of access to grazing areas.”

Cohen-Lifshitz said there was no planning rationale for the community other than “a political plan to evict them. The right thing would be to plan communities in the places where they live in keeping with their traditional lifestyle.” 

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