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31.10.2014
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Netanyahu shelves controversial Bedouin resettlement plan
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Dan Margalit

Another missed opportunity

There is always a public litmus test to assess the strength or weakness of a political decision. When the radical right allies with the radical Left and the Arab sector to thwart a move proposed by the responsible middle, then clearly the proposed step is a good, worthy and beneficial one.

It's just that the "merchants of distress," as retired minister Benny Begin dubbed them on Thursday, will not let the public good take precedence over their narrow political interests. This is the reason why the plan to settle the matter of Bedouin lands has kicked the dust, so to speak.

Begin told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he should give up on turning his proposal into law. The plan could not find any additional supporters, it became an orphan. The prime minister agreed. Israel Hayom suggested the same thing upon seeing Bedouin rioting in public. Unlike a husband who refuses to give his wife a get, you can't force a compromise down people's throats.

Begin, Ehud Prawer and their staffs, preceded by Judge Eliezer Goldberg, faced a harsh reality from the start. There was a clear conflict of interest between the Bedouin and the state, with the Bedouin also divided amongst themselves. There were strong feelings of rage and clashing interests. Both the state and Bedouin expected these men to square the circle -- a feat that has not been accomplished since the heyday of Euclidian geometry in ancient Greece.

Begin did not bring the government the perfect proposal, but one that, given circumstances in the Negev and land registry records, was the best he could do. It would have made life better for the Bedouin while preserving the national interest. Most of the Bedouin know this. They wanted this arrangement. But their community, too, has been taken over by "merchants of distress" who will not allow Israeli Arabs to reach a compromise with the government.

At the same time, the proposal raised the hackles of Jewish groups who fan the flames of hatred by refusing to give the Bedouin even a medium-sized piece of land. By recruiting the right-wing parties, they left the law with no supporters.

Common sense and the people guided by it have lost, and Israeli politics has gone back to the starting point, which is also the boiling point. Once again, there is a land dispute, once again there is destruction of houses. If Hadash MK Dov Khenin believes his own words, that once the legislation is revoked real negotiations can start, then he inhabits an abyss of naiveté. It will take at least another 20 years. Once again, an opportunity has been lost.

All of this would be acceptable if nixing the law actually served the interests of one side. But this is not the case. Most of the Bedouin who hope for economic and social advancement understand that Begin-Prawer's land settlement could have solved their problem. But in the Arab sector a pattern of behavior has been established where nothing reasonable or effective can be undertaken if it involves cooperating with Jews.

MK Ahmad Tibi (Ra'am-Ta'al) does not have a better plan than this one. Nor does MK Yariv Levin (Likud-Beytenu). In any case, they can't and don't want to engage in dialogue with each other. What has been is what will be and there is nothing new under the sun --the sun that beats down on the boiling Negev, the tents of Qedar (an ancient nomadic tribe), the IDF bases and the Jewish towns and communities fortifying themselves behind fences.

 

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