A Bedouin woman sells her lambs at a market in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 5, 2013
A Bedouin woman sells her lambs at a market in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 5, 2013 © Menahem Kahana - AFP
A Bedouin woman sells her lambs at a market in the southern Israeli city of Beersheva, on December 5, 2013
AFP
Last updated: December 12, 2013

Israel drops controversial Bedouin relocation plan

Israel is scrapping a controversial draft law to relocate thousands of Bedouin residents of the Negev desert, an official said Thursday.

Benny Begin, tasked with implementing the so-called Prawer Plan, said he had recommended to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "end the debate on the law" in parliament.

"The prime minister accepted this proposal", he said at a Tel Aviv news conference, days after it emerged that the governing coalition was divided on the proposed legislation.

The bill, which would have seen the demolition of some 40 unrecognised Bedouin villages in the Negev and the relocation of between 30,000 and 40,000 people, passed a preliminary ministerial vote in January.

But it faced intense objection from members of the parliament both from the Right, where lawmakers said the compensation in land and money offered to Bedouins was too generous, and from the Left, which said it was racist and accused the Jewish state of usurping the land of indigenous Arab inhabitants.

Following a heated debate this week at the parliamentary interior committee, coalition chairman Yariv Levin of Netanyahu's Likud party said he would not make the Prawer Plan into law.

Begin, who was a minister in Netanyahu's previous government, rejected the notion that a series of demonstrations in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip against the plan forced the about-turn.

"There is no majority in the coalition for the bill," he said.

Had the Prawer Plan been adopted, it would have also seen the confiscation of more than 700,000 dunams (70,000 hectares) of land claimed by the Bedouin community.

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