Although the Abu-Saad-Lithwick recommendations focus on the "recognized" Bedouin localities, they are definitely also applicable to the "unrecognized" villages. Basically, the two authors identify ways of increasing the level of economic activity, services, and standard of living of all the Negev Bedouin.
Nonetheless, a closer look is needed at the so-called unrecognized villages, since tens of thousands of their residents are still far away from a situation in which it would be possible to discuss their future in the same setting as that of the residents of the "recognized" localities. To illustrate, we will address two of the issues presented in this document: the land question, and the question of recognition.
The land question
We have seen that the government has been trying for thirty years to deal with the land question by recognizing Bedouin title to an extremely small part of the lands to which ownership is being claimed, and by proposing monetary compensation for the remaining lands. We have further seen that, compared with the compensation given to other Israelis in similar or equivalent situations, the monetary compensation offered by the government is low.
In our opinion, it is possible to make progress toward a solution to the land question on the basis of four principles, as follows:
Firstly, those claimed lands that are located within the master plans of "recognized" or planned localities could be registered in the claimants' names; otherwise, the solution might be adopted of giving alternative lands of equivalent value, as was done for those who owned land along the route of Road 6. In our view, recognizing titles to these lands does not adversely affect the State's sovereignty over the territory of the State of Israel.
Secondly, in all matters relating to monetary compensation for both lands and buildings, we believe that the state should show greater generosity. If the state is interested in relocating the residents of "unrecognized" villages to approved localities, it should provide them with sufficient means to ensure that if they move they do not become destitute. The compensation offered should be substantial enough to allow the Bedouin to join the mainstream of Israeli society. (14)
Thirdly, at least part of the lands claimed by the Bedouin are cultivable, in particular if the requisite arrangements are made--water supply, access roads, and so on. We believe that these lands should be included in what is defined as an area designated for the use of the Bedouin localities, as is the practice for many kibbutzim and moshavim.
Fourthly, the scope of the master plans for both the "recognized" Bedouin localities and those going through the recognition process should be expanded, according to the standard indicators used for Jewish localities, so as to ensure that the Bedouin localities will have suitable land reserves for future development purposes.
The question of the "unrecognized" villages
The State's refusal to recognize numerous Bedouin villages--both those that existed pre-1948 and those that came into being in the 1950s and '60s--condemns tens of thousands of Israelis to conditions of existence unbefitting a society that calls itself civilized and developed. No other group in Israel suffers from such egregious discrimination. The situation of the inhabitants of the "unrecognized" villages is particularly flagrant given the fact that nearby, the government is encouraging the establishment of small Jewish localities, including privately owned ranches, which enjoy the complete range of services.
In point of fact, it must be said that in this specific area, a significant policy change has already come about. As indicated above, in 2000 the government decided, in a step that constituted a real breakthrough, to recognize nine of the 45 "unrecognized" villages. Although the process of recognizing and developing these villages is admittedly proceeding at a snail's pace, due partially to government foot-dragging, this was indisputably a landmark decision that will hopefully lead to the recognition of more villages in the future....