As Israel approaches the end of its sixth decade, the day is still a long way off when it will be possible to say that the Negev Bedouin are citizens just like other Israeli citizens. The Bedouin were and continue to be a "problem" that begs a "solution."
As far as lands are concerned, the "solution" that the government has proposed for the last thirty years contains nothing that might lead to a breakthrough (on compensation levels, see Appendices 1 and 2 below). As far as according official recognition to Bedouin localities is concerned, more significant progress has been made: today the number of Bedouin localities recognized by the state is approaching 20: the seven government-planned townships, plus another ten localities that are presently going through the recognition and planning process. In addition, two of the "recognized" localities are about to be expanded markedly. Nevertheless, there are still 30 localities which have not yet made it to the government planning table.
From the viewpoint of the country's leaders, concentrating the Bedouin in townships is a "solution" with clear advantages, the chief among which is to reduce the visibility of "the problem." The Bedouin will be neatly confined in their townships, and the concentrations of camps and tin shacks will no longer constitute an eyesore for those traveling the Negev highways and byways. However, it is a moot point whether this will suffice to solve "the problem," since all the problems that today trouble the residents of "recognized" localities are likely to surface for those who have been resettled: the lack of infrastructure, the low quality of public services, the absence of economic development, and the dearth of employment opportunities.
Over the years, many proposals have been made for improving the situation of the Negev Bedouin. Given the low standard of living, as well as the service levels, to be found in the various Bedouin localities, it comes as no surprise that the proposals focus first and foremost on a series of requirements which could not be more obvious: improving the infrastructure for transportation, sewerage, electricity and water; establishing public institutions; upgrading the education system; developing the employment infrastructure; providing social welfare and medical services; and of course, settling the land question and recognizing the "unrecognized" villages.
The Abu-Saad and Lithwick plan
The most comprehensive and thorough proposal for changing the...