The regional master plan for metropolitan Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) (Plan 14/4, revision 23) ignores the existence of half of the Arab Bedouin population in the south and fails to resolve the planning status of the unrecognized villages in the Naqab (Negev), Adalah argued in an objection that it submitted to the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) on 31 October 2007. Adalah contended in the objection that the plan continues the state's policy of concentrating the Arab Bedouin in existing government-planned towns and severely violates the rights of Arab citizens of Israel residing in the Naqab to dignity, equality and suitable housing.
The objection, prepared by Adalah's Urban and Regional Planner Hana Hamdan and Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara, noted that the plan's objectives include the growth and development of metropolitan Beer el-Sabe in order to absorb the projected demand for housing “of the various populations in the area, including the Bedouin sector,” and “for employment, leisure and vacation areas, and natural resources and the natural landscape.” The plan even addresses the need to determine a location and rules for planning communities in various models for finding solutions for Bedouin settlement. However, the plan itself does not give expression to these needs. It was formulated with a complete disregard for the existing situation, the immediate needs of the Arab population, the current disparities between the Arab and Jewish communities in the region, and the future development needs of its Arab citizens.
The Arab population living in the Naqab numbers around 156,400, comprising approximately 28% of the region's population. About half of this population lives in dozens of unrecognized villages, which suffer from a lack of basic services, including water, electricity, and health and educational facilities. The inhabited area on which the unrecognized villages in the Beer el-Sabe district stand is estimated at approximately 306,000 dunams. One of the proposals in the metropolitan plan aimed at resolving the issue of Arab Bedouin settlement in the unrecognized villages is to designate “a combined agricultural rural landscape area” or “search area”, i.e. an area in which solutions to settlement-related issues are sought. However, the dimensions of this area are limited: the plan removes the overwhelming majority of the unrecognized villages and includes only about 28% of the lands on which the population of the unrecognized villages currently lives, according to an expert opinion by Dr. Yosef Jabareen, a senior lecturer at the Technion, which was submitted with the objection.
Citing the same expert opinion the objection also argues that this “search area” – due to its limitations and developmental constraints, regarding national infrastructure systems, green areas, industrial zones and other environmental constraints, etc. – is in effect a fictitious area that does not provide a real solution for finding solutions for Arab Bedouin settlement in the Naqab. The existing limitations in the “search area” do not allow for the establishment or even the recognition of most of the unrecognized villages located within its boundaries.
Thus, despite the declared intentions of promoting the development of unrecognized villages in the Naqab, the plan for metropolitan Beer el-Sabe perpetuates their problem by ignoring the existence of these villages and the rights and spatial and culture needs of the indigenous Arab Bedouin population in the area. At the same time, the state and its institutions are establishing new communities for Jewish citizens, some adjacent to unrecognized villages or in place of them. In this way, the plan increases the spatial and social disparities between Arab and Jewish citizens in the Naqab.
The plan even approves various designated uses, including housing, for the lands on which unrecognized villages are located, but not for the Arab population. In other words, it regards the area as an empty space, as if tens of thousands of Arab residents had not been living there for many decades.
The objection further argues that the plan does not facilitate just and equal economic development, and that it would lead to the continuation of and even a deterioration of the difficult economic and social situation of the Arab Bedouin population and the widening of existing disparities between it and the Jewish population in the Naqab. The objection also contends that, in light of the difficult social and economic situation of Arab citizens in the Naqab and the gaping economic disparities between the Jews and Arabs in the area, “The plan ought to have invested a greater effort in formulating a special economic plan for the Arab Bedouin in the south, taking into account their social, economic and cultural characteristics. It should have drafted a special, creative, different and just plan that incorporated these characteristics and facilitated proper and real economic development.”
In light of the above, Adalah demanded that the plan be rejected and sent for redrafting. The redrafted plan should adhere to the principles of public participation in planning, equality, reasonableness, proportionality, transparency, fair representation and compliance with legal directives. Moreover, it should strive to find a suitable and accepted solution for the unrecognized villages in Naqab.