WRITTEN BY REGAVIM ON DECEMBER 18, 2013.
Unilateral refusal adopted by the Bedouin sector in relation to any generous offer from the government over the years is in fact a bargaining chip of the Bedouin position, which refuses any compromise and creates “facts on the ground.” For the sake of discussion, they claim that the percentage of lands needed for settling the Bedouin population is only 3% of the area of the Negev (around 86,487 acres), and the amount of land claims amounts to “only” five percent (about 160,618 acres) from the total area of the Negev, which comprises some 3,212,400 acres.
“To remind you and to wake you from your slumber, the Bedouin comprise 30% of the residents of the Negev. The lands disputed over with the government are 5% of the Negev … what is the fuss over? It’s all over 5%. Over this the government establishes an administration? Over this the government establishes staff upon staff? Over this the government makes new committees each day? Apparently there is too much unemployment in the public sector. Shame on the State of Israel that chastises the Bedouin over such meager amounts of land in the Negev.” (Knesset Member Taleb Abu Arar – Ra’am Ta”al Party, from a speech in the Knesset over the Regulatory Act)
These numbers waved before us are completely divorced from reality, both in terms of the amounts of land on which the Bedouin reside today, and also in relation to the amount of land claimed:
Bedouin Settlement in the Northern Negev
The aerial photographs printed above in regards to the section dealing with the number of Bedouin villages in scattered areas gives tangible evidence to the great spread of Bedouin settlement. The investigative division of Regavim has made an updated map of settlement, showing this spread covers 148,263 acres, as will be expanded upon in the following sections.
1. The True Extent of Lands used for Bedouin settlement is about a fifth (20%) of the Negev.
After taking away the firing ranges used by the IDF, the nature reserves and the areas protected by the National Master Plan (Plan 35), the remaining lands reserved for settlement of the Negev amounts to only 687,200 acres.
It should be emphasized that the settlement areas are not actually ever fully used for settlement and agriculture, but also include parks, open areas and the like. As such, the numbers have a completely different meaning: The Bedouin 148,263 acres actually occupy 21.5% of the lands allotted for settlement throughout the Negev, and make claims on a similar amount of land.
For the sake of comparison: There are 205,000 residents in the city of Be’er Sheva living on only 8,650 acres of land. The Bedouin population, numbering at around 211,000 people, live on an area seventeen times larger, on around 148,260 acres of land!
2. Percentage of Lands Claimed: All ownership claims over lands that have come to the courts since the 70’s until today, whether initiated by the Bedouin or in the context of opposing claims filed by the State of Israel in the past ten years, have been shelved. The State of Israel has declared over the years that according to the law and according to the registry, it is the owner of the scattered areas of the Negev and it is willing to clarify all claims of ownership of the Bedouin in court. Among the Bedouin population, only 12% (300 families) are categorized as claimants over various areas of land.
Settlement area available in the Negev
In other words: 300 families (approximately 13,000 people) are claiming private ownership over 23% of the Negev that is reserved for settlement!
In order not to leave an opening for the Bedouin claim that also individual farms and agricultural settlements in the Negev receive vast lands; it should be mentioned that this claim is NOT genuine. The farms in this region are placed there as guardians over government land and live under a tenant agreement. None of them make ownership claims over the lands they work and none of them expect to receive the land as private land.
The true extent of land where the Bedouin live, where they make claims of private ownership, is not only 5% of the area of the Negev, but rather 23% of the area of the Negev that has been allotted for settlement. Some 20-30% of Bedouin in the Negev have seized lands more than 17 times the size of the city of Be’er Sheva. Whose total number of residents is approximately equal to the total population of the Bedouin in the Negev. Among all of the sectors of Israeli society, there is no sector so small that makes a claim of private ownership over an area so large, despite the fact that from a legal perspective, it has been proven time and time again that their claims are without basis.
 An expansion of this issue can be found in the Regavim position paper, “The Renewal of Opposing Claims for Land Regulation in the Negev.”