Israeli settlements threaten Negev as soon as once more

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Israeli authorities has lately authorized extra settlement tasks inside the Green Line, and within the 1967 occupied territories within the West Bank and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

On Dec. 26, the Israeli authorities authorized a settlement plan within the occupied Syrian Golan Heights value 1 billion Israeli shekels ($323 million). On Dec. 28, Israeli Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked introduced the institution of 4 settlements within the Negev Desert to usher in 3,000 Jewish households. This is a component of a bigger plan to determine 10 to 12 settlements within the Negev. The plan additionally contains implementing “national” infrastructure and trade tasks, such because the high-voltage electrical energy undertaking, railway undertaking and phosphate factories.

Shaked is the spearhead main settlement tasks within the Negev Desert. Along with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, they reached an understanding with the Arab Joint List within the Knesset headed by Mansour Abbas on Nov. 3, 2021, concerning the tasks within the Negev.

The understanding stipulates that Israel acknowledges and develops three Arab villages within the Negev — Rakhma, Abdah and Khashm Zana — that are inhabited by approximately 7,000 Bedouins, and establishes a brand new metropolis for the Bedouin neighborhood. In return, at least 70% of the Bedouin inhabitants scattered within the Negev would signal an settlement to move to that metropolis and villages and evacuate their lands inside seven years. In addition, the lands allotted to Bedouins shall by no means be expanded sooner or later, as their space can be diminished from 13,000 dunams (3,212 acres) to three,000 dunams (741 acres), i.e., Israel will confiscate 10,000 dunams (2,471 acres) of the individuals’s lands.

Israel stipulates that if these villages are acknowledged, they have to obtain Bedouins from outdoors to reside in them.

Adalah’s common director and researcher within the historical past of the Negev Desert, Marwan Abu Freih, instructed Al-Monitor, “The settlement plans in the Negev are sponsored by the Israeli government and Zionist parties such as the Yamina party headed by Bennett and Shaked. In addition, they are supported and encouraged by many settlement associations, most notably Regavim.”

Abu Freih identified that Israel plans to determine about 12 settlements within the Negev, elevate the variety of settlers residing there in the course of the subsequent 10 years to 2 million, move army factories from the north to the south (Negev), set up army coaching facilities and construct highways to attach the north to the south with a view to facilitate the travel of settlers and inspire them to reside there, in addition to set up a railway line to attach the brand new camps and settlements.

The Israeli authorities’s plans go consistent with the trouble and strain exerted by the settlement associations focusing on the Negev Desert, most notably Regavim, which works to “affect the regimes in Israel to manage the lands within the Negev and stop foreigners from controlling them,” as well as the Or Movement, which works according to a strategy to transform the Negev and the Galilee into independent and prosperous centers of life and engines of national growth.

Abu Freih said, “The settlement associations have been organizing periodic visits for settlers to the Negev Desert, to inform them of the plans they intend to implement to encourage them to move there, and to incite the government against the Arab Bedouins in the Negev.”

He added, “These associations insist on returning the land to the state, and realizing [former Israeli Prime Minister David] Ben-Gurion’s dream in having 2 million settlers working in the agricultural sector and 2 million settlers in the industrial sector in the Negev.”

The Israeli settlement plan in the Negev is based on controlling the largest area of the Negev land and limiting the Bedouin population in small residential communities, not subject to future expansion.

Most of the Negev’s residents live off grazing livestock, which requires them to move between the lands to search for grass and water amid an absence of living services and infrastructure.

Jumaa Zabarka, member of the political bureau of the National Democratic Assembly in the Negev, told Al-Monitor, “The settlement plan announced by Shaked targets the Azazima land, which was confiscated by the Israeli occupation army in 1956. Part of the settlements will be built on an area of 19,000 dunams [4,695 acres] in Bir Hadaj village, leaving out only about 5,000 dunams [1,235 acres] of it, which means 300 Palestinian families will be displaced.”

He pointed out that the residents reject Israel’s plans to squeeze them into three recognized villages, saying, “Recognizing villages is a fraud because Israel does not recognize the residents’ ownership of the land. Every new settlement will force Arabs into displacement after their land is confiscated.”

These plans will have many negative effects on the Bedouin population in the short and long term. “This is a battle of existence for the residents, and they cannot surrender,” Zabarka said. “The Arabs constitute about 32% of the Negev population while settlers constitute 68%. The Arabs live on only 3% of the total area of the Negev, while Israel controls 97%. The settlement projects will thus ensure a significant demographic advantage for the settlers.”

He noted, “There are seven villages in the Negev recognized by Israel, and 11 villages are in the pre-recognition phase while 35 others are unrecognized. Meanwhile, there are 114 settlements and kibbutzim for settlers. So new settlement projects will only enforce this reality, turning us into a minority that does not own any land.”

Zabarka stressed, “What Israel is planning in the Negev is an uprooting project, similar to the Nakba, and it is a plan rejected by the residents,” pointing out that steadfastness, legal action and popular protests are the only options the residents have to fight this.

The settlement plans are a new episode in Israel’s ongoing targeting of the Negev Desert, and they come eight years after the Palestinians within the Green Line and the Negev managed to bring down the Prawer Plan in 2013, which threatened to destroy most Negev villages, displace tens of 1000’s of Bedouin Palestinians and confiscate greater than 800,000 dunams (197,700 acres) of their land.

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