AFP, ענת רסקין
Founder and CEO of the Israel's Defense and Security Forum (IDSF, “Habithonistim”) and formerly Director of the IDF Chief of Staff’s Office
The loss of governability in the northern Negev is a great security threat with wide-ranging significance.
The Bedouin population is doubling every 15 years. The Bedouin live in the area between the southwestern border of the Palestinian Authority in Judea and the northeastern border of the Gaza Strip. If we do not stop their violence and expansion, it is not unreasonable to assume that within a number of decades they will be able to expand further eastward and thus block the expansion of the State of Israel in that area, which is critical to future settlement projects. Later they could demand autonomy, or annexation to the Palestinian state. The Palestinian resistance organizations would be happy to embrace the Bedouin resistance because the added land would provide the Palestinians with territorial continuity between Judea and Gaza while bifurcating Israel and significantly harming it in a critical location. If they succeed that far, then rather than resting content they can even attempt to expand and continue their conquests southward, deep into the Negev. In order to do so, they would not require the entire Bedouin population — a large part of which certainly wants nothing but to live in peace and comfort. They would require only a resolute minority among the leaders.
That scenario may appear far-fetched only to those who have not studied history and have not followed the course of events in the Middle East. Anyone claiming that Palestinian terrorism and Bedouin crime are unrelated should take notice of the enlistment of Bedouin criminals into Palestinian terrorism. The Bedouin, whose lives are intermingled with the lives of Palestinians in southern Judea, are exposed to propaganda and incitement on the web — not only from Palestinian terror organizations but also from global terror organizations such as ISIS. They too are part of the globalization of information and media.
The indecisiveness in this regard cries out to heaven. The Bedouin Development and Settlement Authority was established in 2007 and the Goldberg Commission’s report was submitted to the Olmert administration in 2008. In2011, the Netanyahu administration developed and approved the Prawer Plan, intended to bring order to Bedouin residency once and for all; but since then, it has gone unimplemented because of Bedouin opposition and the fear of forced displacement. That fear strengthened after a villager, Yakub MusaAbu al-Ki'an, died while the police were evacuating the village of Ummal-Hiran in 2017.
During that incident, a police officer on the scene was also killed, and both deaths are certainly tragic, but there is no choice and we must prevail even if the effort is complicated and difficult on the ground. Only this week, the Prime Minister remarked in connection with the struggle against violence in the Arab sector that we are losing the country; but if he actually understands the importance of this moment, he must not content himself with a struggle against violence. He must act immediately to bring order to the Bedouin presence in the Negev. Disorderly settlement by the Bedouin is part of an overall problem that includes the theft of weapons in the south, intrusion into firing zones, and even hothouses for cultivating marijuana and manufacturing drugs.
If the state evacuated thousands of Jews from their homes in the past in order to bring order to Jewish settlement in Gaza and northern Samaria, there is no reason not to do the same in the case of Bedouin settlements in the norther Negev. The broad composition of the current government — which includes the United Arab List (Ra’am), a party interested in arriving at an arrangement — is the very thing that provides a good prospect for implementing a solution with the fullest agreement possible.
Everyone learns from watching everyone else. The extremist groups among the Bedouin watch the feeble response to Hamas and they acquire inspiration and courage. The reverse, of course, also happens. And it is the same with Hezbollah, Iran, anti-Israeli circles in Europe, and the rest of the world. If in one place the State of Israel fails to impose governability and sovereignty, it will lose governability and sovereignty elsewhere. Victory against one threat deters and demoralizes other threats, and there is no better or easier place to start than here at home.