New gov’t will permit rampant illegal Arab construction, says watchdog

Bennett and Saar have pledged  to demand that the attorney general cancel all fines and sanctions on illegal Arab construction, says the Regavim Movement.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

The details of the coalition agreements publicized in the media Monday evening reveal that Naftali Bennett and Gideon Saar, members of the emerging coalition and of right-wing parties, who blamed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the failure of governance in the Negev, are “not only failing to provide solutions but are exacerbating the problem,” the Regavim Movement warned.

Bennett and Saar have pledged in the coalition agreements to approach the Attorney General and demand that he cancel all fines and sanctions on illegal Arab construction. The agreement also calls for the freezing enforcement against illegal construction for almost four years, and the freezing of the existing demolition orders for all illegal structures in the Negev that were built until the beginning of 2021. Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Raam party and a member of the emerging coalition, will be appointed a deputy minister and will receive half a billion shekels for distribution at his discretion.

Furthermore, the coalition agreements place both the Bedouin Settlement Authority and the Knesset’s Interior Committee, the key actors on the Negev issue, under the complete control of the left-wing bloc and Raam.

“Aside from approving the whitewashing of thousands of illegal structures on about 11,000 dunams of land to create ‘three new communities,’ the coalition agreements do not stipulate what will happen to the rest of the illegal Bedouin squatters’ camps nine months from now, and neither Bennett’s Yemina Party nor Saar’s New Hope Party will have the ability to influence the outcome in a government kept afloat by Mansour Abbas and the Islamist Raam Party,” said Regavim, which is dedicated to the protection of Israel’s national lands and resources.

“This situation has unparalleled destructive potential, setting a course for total abandonment of the Negev while rewarding rampant illegal Bedouin construction that imperils the healthy development of the Negev, home of the vast majority of the State of Israel’s land reserves,” the organization warned.

Regavim has repeatedly warned that the state has lost its grip in the south and sovereignty in the southern region of Israel has been relinquished to an autonomous entity established by the Bedouins in the Negev. More and more illegal enclaves continue to spring up throughout the territory – and all the while, the Israeli government continues to turn a blind eye.

According to data presented to the Knesset in December 2019, in the two years following the implementation of a new law, common construction offenses were reduced by 41%, and serious construction offenses were slashed by 75%. The freezing of these laws would reverse this trend.