Sunday, December 01, 2013

Netanyahu: Prawer bill will be advanced for better future of Negev residents

Premier condemns "lawbreakers" who attempt to "prevent better future for greater population"; police arrest 28; 15 police officers wounded in riots over Beduin resettlement plan.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at the start of the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset.
PM Binyamin Netanyahu speaks to reporters at the start of the Likud faction meeting in the Knesset. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu condemned the acts of "lawbreakers" in light of violent demonstrations that took place across the country Saturday in protest of the controversial Prawer plan to resettle Beduin in the Negev, and charged that the legislation would be advanced.

"We will treat offenders to the fullest extent of the law and will not tolerate such disturbances,"  the premier said while discussing the "Day of Rage" riots with Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitz and Police Insp.-Gen. Yohanan Danino.

“Attempts by a loud and violent minority to deny a better future to a large and broad population are grave. We will continue to advance the law for a better future for all residents of the Negev,"  he stated.

Police said by 8 p.m. they had arrested 28 people and that 15 police officers were lightly hurt, including Coastal District Commander Haggai Dotan and the spokeswoman of the Negev subdistrict Navah Tabo and an officer from the Central District who they said was stabbed in the leg by a protester.

Protesters hurled stones amid clashes with authorities injuring ten police officers, Police Spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

There were a reported 1,500 demonstrators gathered at Hura Junction in the Negev, some of whom were seen waving PLO flags, Israel Radio reported.
Police deployed reinforcements of hundreds of officers in Hura and Haifa, and used a number of crowd dispersal methods including tear gas, stun grenades, and water cannons.

There were also protests outside the Nablus Gate in East Jerusalem and off Highway 444 in the Triangle, where many Arab cities and villages are situated adjacent to the Green Line.

Water cannons were used by police Saturday night to disperse over 100 Arab rioters demonstrating at Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate, police said.

A small protest also took place in Jaffa on Saturday evening where some seventy people gathered at the Clocktower Square blocking traffic intermittently, Israel Radio reported.

Similar demonstrations were being planned for Haifa as well as a number of European and Arab countries to mark the so-called international "Day of Rage" against the legislation.

Police Commissioner Yochanan Danino said that police “will allow legal, legitimate protests in keeping with the law but won't allow illegal protests to disrupt the daily life of civilians.”

The Headquarters for the Economic and Community Development of the Negev Beduin in the Prime Minister’s Office, headed by Maj.-Gen. (res.) Doron Almog, stated:
“The government of Israel regrets that extremists, many of whom are not Beduin, chose to divert the open debate about a purely social and humanitarian cause into a confrontation, falsely linked to the Palestinian issue,” read the statement.
“Alien interests” were behind the protests and are not based on a “sincere concern for the Beduin,” it said.

“We call upon the Negev Beduin to take a stand for their own future and not let anyone else abuse and manipulate this process for alien causes.”
The large majority of the Beduin will continue living “in their current location, while property rights will be resolved, regularized and recognized,” read the statement.
“The Beduin of the Negev, being equal citizens, deserve adequate housing, public services and a better future for their children.”

Almog, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post Saturday night, said the protests are political and not connected to the Beduin in the Negev.

The leaders from the Israeli Arab parties Balad and Raam-Taal, as well as from the Islamic Movement, are behind the protests.

“Most of the Beduin in the Negev want a change and development,” said Almog.
“Look at the protests erupting throughout the Arab world, in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere,” he said adding, “what did they gain from from,” he asked.
We have a good plan and are going to invest a lot of money to create a better future, he said.

“The Arab and Beduin population need to cooperate to strengthen Israel,” said Almog.

Asked if these kinds of disturbances would threaten the implementation of the bill if it is passed, Almog responded, “We will put the plan into action when the bill passes. It is not about a process of force, but development. Most of the process will be done by agreement between the Beduin and the state of Israel.”

Amir Abo Kwedr, an Arab activist involved in the protests told The Jerusalem Post Saturday night that “people gathered in a day of rage from all around Palestine - Haifa, Ramallah, Gaza, Hebrew University against the Prawer plan which is aimed at displacing tens of thousands of people.”
“The police provoked the protests by gathering in the thousands and getting too close to the protesters,” he claimed.

The police should use more self-restraint, he said, but “they are too stubborn and eager to oppress every kind of protest against this plan.”

Asked about the claim by some that the protests are being hijacked by non-Beduin Arabs, Kwedr responded, “We don’t accept these shameful kind of old policies of divide and conquer - that the Beduin are not part of the Palestinian community.

The majority of the protesters at the protest in Hura were from the Negev and saying otherwise is just an effort to delegitimize the protests, he said.
The Prawer-Begin bill is not a compromise since it was done without the consultation of the community, he added.

Today is a very important day and it should be seen as a “warning sign” for what could happen going forward.

Asked if protests would continue if the bill is passed, Kwedr said that he does not know if it can be implemented with outcomes like today.
“As we saw today, the community will react.”

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman called the rioting "serious but expected" and the situation in the south "catastrophic."

"It is our duty to stop the situation in which there are some citizens to whom the laws of planning and construction apply and there are others who ignore them and use violence to ensure the laws don't apply to them," Liberman wrote on Facebook.

According to Liberman, "this isn't a social problem or a housing crisis, but a battle for the land...We are fighting for the national lands of the Jewish people and some are intentionally trying to steal them and forcibly take them over. We cannot close our eyes and escape this reality."

The Yisrael Beytenu chairman called for the government to deal with the situation before it becomes impossible by building modern cities for Israeli Arabs, with tall buildings and infrastructure.

"Building permits are not only for Jews," he explained.
Liberman also called for the government to reexamine the Prawer-Begin plan and cancel benefits the Beduin were supposed to receive, writing that if there is no agreement on the whole bill, then none of it should be implemented.

In response to Liberman, MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al) called the Foreign Minister a fascist and "an immigrant who lives on land stolen from Arabs."

Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon called for the Likud faction to discuss the bill.

"It cannot be that we are giving state-owned land and getting uncontrolled violence," he stated.

The Prawer-Begin bill is a five-year economic development initiative seeking to regulate Beduin settlement in the Negev.

The bill is a compromise solution for tens of thousands of Beduin currently scattered in unrecognized villages throughout the south, legalizing around 63 percent of claimed land.

The Beduin, Israeli Arab MKs, the their supporters from various NGOs claim it would result in up to 40,000 Beduin losing their land.
Former minister Bennie Begin is handling the Prawer-Begin bill for the government.

The bill is currently being deliberated in the Knesset’s Interior Committee. It is expected to come before the parliament for its second and third readings. The plan costs NIS 7 billion, NIS 2 billion of which would be earmarked for compensation to those whose land claims were not addressed, Israel Radio reported. Staff, Daniel K. Eisenbud and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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