Adalah: Negev development plan discriminates between Jews and Arabs

By Mijal Grinberg

Haaretz

Shvat 11, 5767

The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Vice Premier Shimon Peres to cancel a plan for the development of the Negev desert, saying that it discriminates between Jews and Arabs.

The plan "Negev 2015" was put together by a private body called "Daroma" (southbound), headed by Stef Wertheimer, one of Israel's richest men, and has been adopted as official government policy.

The execution of the plan is to be carried out under the auspices of "Daroma," which counts among its board members several former military figures.

The government even agreed to invest NIS 1.7 billion over a period of a decade, until 2015. Nevertheless, the government only budgeted NIS 400 million for the Negev, of which just NIS 150 million came from funds for special projects.

According to a document submitted by Adalah to the government, the program maintains and strengthens inequality gaps between Jews and Arabs in the Negev. The document deals with three principal issues of residence and property, employment and education.

Bedouin residing in recognized communities constitute only 0.7 percent of the area of the Be'er Sheva district, which is de facto the entire southern district. Bedouin constitute 27 percent of the population of the south.

Peres' plan is intended to raise the number of residents in the Negev by 70 percent.

Adalah representatives say that even if the plan does not explicitly refer to Jewish citizens, the real estate plans appear to be designed for them.

The plan does provide for enlarging several Bedouin farms, but focuses on real estate development in Jewish areas.

The program allocated NIS 1.2 billion to Jewish settlement in the south. Meanwhile, it completely ignores unrecognized villages, which comprise some 6 percent of Negev land, or 12 million dunam.

While the program includes a construction plan for recognized Bedouin villages, it does not propose using public resources, unlike in the Jewish communities.

The program also upholds the wide ethnic separation in the Negev, making no effort to integrate Jews and Arabs in shared communities.