Instead of Establishing New Localities – Invest in Those That Exist
© Andrey Salamchev | Dreamstime.com
On March 24, 2022, in preparation for a government hearing on a proposed resolution for the establishment of five new localities at the entrances to the city of Arad in the Negev, we appealed to the government along with the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality and the organization Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights. We opposed the proposal, calling upon the government not to advance it, but rather to expand and strengthen existing localities in the Negev, including recognition and planning for unrecognized Bedouin villages, which are desperate for recognition, planning, and development.
In the appeal, we note that the proposed plan has far-reaching consequences for residents of the existing localities in the Negev, and that it is expected to have a negative impact – environmentally, socially, and economically – on the existing localities. Among other things, as many studies show, the stronger and more affluent population in the Negev is expected to leave older and weaker localities, further debilitating them. Resources are expected to be invested in the construction of new localities, and the infrastructure required will come at the expense of those required to strengthen, recognize and develop those that already exist, which would not constitute further budgetary investment in the Negev. Global experience indicates that such planning inevitably leads to increasing gaps and inequality, and it is for good reason that a decision has already been made not to promote such planning in Israel.
On April 12, 2022, we published a response to the plans to establish new localities in the Negev, along with the local organizations, Sikkuy-Aufoq – The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality, and The Regional Council of Unrecognized Villages in the Negev. The response noted:
The plans approved by the government in recent weeks are intended to advance political goals, while completely disregarding the original residents of the Negev and their needs. The Bedouin population, which has lived in the area for decades and yearns for recognition, is nearly completely ignored in the new plans. A significant portion of the new localities are planned to replace unrecognized Bedouin villages in which thousands of people reside, with the apparent intention to evict them by force.
Furthermore, the establishment of new localities will gravely harm those that currently exist, and especially those with disadvantaged populations that will remain in the weaker communities and won’t benefit from the investment of resources and development planned. The treasury and planning system oppose the plan for good reason. We call on the government to rescind the harmful plans for the Negev, and instead work to strengthen the existing localities, recognize and authorize the sites of unrecognized villages, and develop the Negev to benefit all its residents.
Two days later, we appealed to the Attorney General in this spirit, along with the organizations Sikkuy-Aufoq and Bimkom. We argued that the government's decision is racist and illegal, as its stated aim is to promote "balanced demographics" in the Negev through the establishment of localities for Jews. We requested that the decision be annulled and a government decision promoted in its place, which would also recognize the Bedouin villages on whose land they intend to establish the five localities.