WRITTEN BY REGAVIM ON DECEMBER 18, 2013.
The Israeli Justice system describes the crisis of illegal construction as a “blow to the nation.” Different estimates gauge some 100,000 illegally constructed structures throughout the country. The illegal construction of the Bedouin takes up a sizable portion of this crisis. As of the end of 2012 the number of illegal structures by the Bedouin is estimated at some 65,000 and each year some additional 2000 new structures are built.5
A common claim is that the Bedouin have no recourse but to resort to illegal construction. The finger of accusation is pointed at the state that does not allow planning or construction permits in the Arab sector. Take for example the position paper of the Coalition for Citizen’s Rights:
“Illegal construction in Arab villages does not take place in a vacuum and is not done by choice or the desire to break or disrespect the laws of the state. Such building … is done in order to provide housing for young people and Arab families, who the state and planning authorities have left for many years with no solution to their housing problem. It basically stems from a cessation of planning by the authorities, expressed by, among other things, a lack of planning or faulty planning which does not meet the minimum requirements of Arab citizens.”
“It is important to note that the Arab citizens who are forced into this situation are not greedy construction criminals … all they seek is a modest house over their heads. We are not talking about luxurious villas. In many cases they are tin shacks, shelters, or small apartments … if it was only possible, and if they had a legal choice before them, we would not see them building without permits, construction, which from the standpoint of the costs, is much more expensive than building with permits and according to approved construction plans.”
Over the years, the State of Israel has established plans in order to settle the Bedouin in towns connected to infrastructure (electricity, water, and sewage), educational and medical facilities. Towards this end seven Bedouin towns were established, later the State executed a process of retroactively legalizing and recognizing 11 illegal Bedouin villages (referred to as Abu Basma Council towns). As of May, 2013, among the 220,000 Bedouin citizens in the Negev, some 132,000 residents are registered as living in organized, legal towns & villages.
The official position paper of the Israeli Land Authority show a multiple array of enticements offered to those Bedouin who leave the numerous illegally constructed villages and move to the legal towns and cities. These enticements are given regardless of financial status or whether they have a claim to the land or not.
“The enticements granted to the Bedouin include free housing lots exempt from development fees – the state grants the Bedouin, free of charge, lots on average 800 square meters per family (close to a ¼ acre). The plots are completely developed, including infrastructure for roads, drainage, sewage, electricity, water, etc. It is important to note that on these lots a Bedouin family can chose to build between 1 and 4 housing units according to their preference and need.
The Bedouin family that moves from an illegal village to permanent housing in a legal town or village receives monetary compensation from the State. The average amount of compensation for those moving to permanent housing is a few times higher than the true value of the illegal structure. The amount of compensation is fixed according to the index of the ILA and can reach hundreds of thousands of shekels (NIS) per family.
In addition, Bedouin families who move from illegally established villages to permanent housing receive financial grants. The State of Israel give Bedouin residents who move from these areas to permanent housing a “moving grant” of 7500 NIS per family and an extra 1500 NIS per child. It is important to note that the advantages given to the Bedouin sector are exclusive and are not given to any other sectors of the population.”
Until today, the state has spent around 370 million NIS ($100m) alone on development of lots for families who have moved from scattered regions in the framework of the compensation procedure. The budget earmarked for development of lots for the rest of the residents of scattered regions in the framework of an arrangement is estimated at close to 2.5 billion NIS. The figures from the authority for Bedouin settlement from May, 2013 show that despite unprecedented advantages, there are still 15,000 empty lots in Bedouin settlements, around a quarter of them after complete development, which remain desolate and unused.
It is noted that despite the substantial efforts invested on behalf of the state, including new towns, residential neighborhoods, and compensation for evacuation, there has not yet been an ongoing and comprehensive follow up including verification that there is a connection between these investments and an arrangement for the Bedouin population living in illegal villages. Moreover, from population statistics it appears that from 1994 to 2013 the population living in these illegal villages grew by 20,000 residents, despite all the plans and resources that have been invested in the process.
Lakiya town plan for 30,000 residents
Actual Number of residents 11,723 (May. 2013)
A good example of the phenomena is Lakiya. See photos above. The government provided plans for 30,000 residents and today only 11,723 residents reside there.
Conclusion: The claim that Bedouin are forced to resort to illegal construction due to withholding of permits and adequate planning on the part of the authorities is far from the reality of the actual situation on the ground. The State of Israel has assigned large budgets and made every effort above and beyond what is required by the law in order to allow the Bedouin to move to legal communities.
5 Interior Ministry figures, 2012
 “The Policy of Home Demolition in Arab and Mixed Settlements.” The Coalition for Citizen’s Rights. http://www.acri.org.il/he/?p=2326