On June 25, 2013, the Israeli Knesset approved the first reading of the government proposed "Law for the Regulation of Bedouin Settlements in the Negev," also called the Prawer Plan. If this law is adopted and implemented, more than 20 Arab villages in the Negev will be demolished; 50,000 Arab citizens will be expelled from their homes; and over half a million dunums (500,000 square meters) of land belonging to Negev Arabs will be confiscated. The Negev Arabs are to be relocated to specific areas, and will be prevented from owning land or residing in much of the Negev region, specifically the fertile agricultural lands situated between the city of Beersheba and the Gaza Strip.
This paper examines the background of the Prawer Plan, its objectives, and the dangerous repercussions upon the Arabs of the Negev and their property if the Israeli government succeeds in implementing this project after its final approval by the Knesset.
The Negev Arabs Before and After the Nakba
The total population of the Negev prior to the 1948 Nakba was estimated at around 80,000, all of whom were Palestinian Arabs belonging to Bedouin tribes. Various sources indicate that since the end of the World War I, the Bedouin Arabs of the Negev began to adopt a more sedentary and settled lifestyle, relying mainly on agriculture for their livelihood. By the 1930s, 90 percent of the Negev Arabs were primarily reliant on farming, while less than 10 percent still depended on raising sheep and cattle as their main occupation.
In October 1948, the Israeli Army occupied the Negev and began expelling the majority of its Arab population, a process that involved several massacres; those who remained lived under military rule until 1966. The expulsion and persecution of the Negev Arabs took place over many years, especially between 1948 and 1953. Israeli authorities did not provide the Negev Arabs with Israeli identification cards until mid-1952, when papers were provided for the purpose of making it easier to control and expel them. In 1953, as a result of this expulsion policy, less than 11,000 Arabs remained in the Negev, with the vast majority of the Negev's original inhabitants expelled to Jordan, Egypt, and the Gaza Strip. In the early 1950s, as part of their efforts to strip Arabs of their land, Israeli authorities decided to deport the majority of the remaining Negev Arabs and to concentrate them in a region east of the city of Beersheba, which was dubbed the "closed" or "fenced area". Negev Arabs were prevented from leaving this reservation for more than 15 years. In this way, Israeli authorities displaced the Negev Arabs from their fertile lands west of the Negev, which were mainly situated between the city of Beersheba and the Gaza Strip, establishing dozens of settlements destined for Jewish settlers on their lands.
Around 200,000 Arab citizens now live in the Negev, half of whom reside in officially acknowledged townships, while the other half live in towns and settlements that are not acknowledged by the Israeli authorities and are labeled "non-recognized villages". Over time, Israel's policy toward the Negev Arabs has undergone three main phases: the creation of the fenced area, the concentration of the Negev Arabs in a limited number of towns, and the confiscation of Arab property.
Starting in 1962, the Israeli government has followed the policy of concentrating the Negev Arabs in a limited number of towns, seeking to settle Palestinians within a specific region in order to limit their geographic dispersal and confiscate their land. The fenced area meant to contain the Negev Arabs is situated to the southeast of Beersheba, an arid region that measures 1.5 million dunums out of Negev's 13 million dunums. This policy was adopted during the creation of the city of Beersheba in 1969, followed by the town of Rahit in 1974. Kasifa and Arara were established in 1982 following a number of events, including the Camp David Accords, the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, and the construction of the Nevatim airbase in the Tal al-Melh area. Then, the Arab inhabitants of Tal al-Melh were expelled and their lands, totaling 60,000 dunums, were confiscated. In 1985, the town of Shaqeeb al-Salam was established southeast of Beersheba, and Hura and al-Laqiya were founded in 1990. Following the escalation of the popular Arab struggle, led by a regional council for the non-recognized Arab villages, the Israeli authorities granted a preliminary acknowledgment to a dozen Arab villages. The Abu Basma Regional Council was established in 2003 in order to provide public services to these villages. Nevertheless, despite their official recognition many years ago, these Arab villages are still deprived of electricity, water, and other basic services.
The third axis of the Israeli policy toward the Negev Arabs has consisted in the takeover of their lands and the confiscation of Arab property, in addition to limiting Arab land ownership to a minimum. The land that is currently claimed by Negev Arabs exceeds 800,000 dunums; since the early 1970s, over 3,000 lawsuits have been filed by Arabs to claim parcels of this land and officially register them under their name. The land that is currently inhabited by Negev Arabs, both in the few recognized villages and the non-recognized villages, measures around 260,000 dunums, including 180,000 dunums that belong to the 45 non-recognized villages.
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* This study was translated by the ACRPS Translation and English Editing Department. The original Arabic version can be found here.
 The approval of laws in the Israeli Knesset passes through three phases: the first, second, and third readings. After the Knesset approves the bill in the first reading, the draft is transferred to a specialized committee, which is charged with discussing it and proposing possible amendments. The law is then sent back to the Knesset to be approved for the second and third readings, following discussion and the introduction of changes and amendments to the bill. The law was named after General Ehud Prawer, head of the governmental committee that proposed the draft law.
 Falah, The Forgotten Palestinians, 78-79. For more information on the situation of the Negev Arabs and their lifestyle prior to the Nakba, see Arif al-Arif, The History of Beersheba and its Clans (Jerusalem: Bait al-Maqdis Press, 1934), and The Justice System among the Bedouins (Jerusalem: Bait al-Maqdis Press, 1933).