In a rare move, the National Council for Planning and Building (NCPB) met in Jerusalem on 16 November 2010, as requested by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu's office, to reconsider its decision from 20 July 2010 to recognize the Arab Bedouin unrecognized villages of Atir-Umm al-Hieran and Tel Arad located in the Naqab (Negev). The NCPB committee members complied with the request of the Prime Minister's Office and retracted the special investigator's recommendation to recognize the villages.
The special investigator appointed by the NCPB made the recommendation after hearings held to consider objections submitted against the Metropolitan Plan for Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) by Adalah, the Regional Council for Unrecognized Villages in the Naqab (RCUV) and Bimkom. (See http://www.adalah.org/eng/pressreleases/pr.php?file=07_11_26). The special investigator suggested the recognition of the village of Atir and to enlarge its area to include the homes of Umm al-Hieran's residents. In addition, the investigator proposed the recognition of part of Tel Arad, an agricultural village, to meet its residents' needs.
After learning that the NCPB decided to recognize the two villages, the Prime Minister's Office demanded that it hold a session to reconsider its decision. On 16 November 2010, Adalah Attorney Suhad Bishara sent an urgent letter in the name of Adalah, the RCUV, and Bimkom to members of the NCPB asking that they reject the request to change their decision and not hold a special session.
The organizations argued that holding an additional session and changing the decision was illegal, unconstitutional and violates the principle of the rule of law. It also affects the independence of NCPB's: This body is the highest authority in the state to decide upon land planning matters. The NCPB Law emphasizes the independence of the committee in order to prevent political interference in land planning affairs.
Further, the organizations argued that holding the special session and changing the decision voids the objection process and, in these two cases, reduces the NCPB to that of a figurehead. In this case, the government is acting as the ultimate decision-maker rather than the NCPB.
Adalah has been struggling for years on behalf of the 1,000 Arab Bedouin residents of Umm al-Hieran-Atir, citizens of Israel, so that they may stay on their land. Adalah represents the residents in court proceedings such as lawsuits filed to by the state to evacuate the inhabitants from their homes and in ex parte home demolition orders, as well as in various objections before state land planning authorities.
The Letter (Hebrew)
For more information:
See e.g., Ran Shapira, "It takes a village," Haaretz, 9 March 2009:
See also: Jack Khoury, "PMO blocks recognition of Bedouin villages," Haaretz, 17 November 2010