The situation among the Bedouins of the Negev is not different in principle from the situation of the Bedouins throughout the Middle East. Since the State of Israel was established more than 65 years ago it has not dealt correctly with the matter. Beginning in 1968 the State of Israel has been attempting to settle the Bedouins in towns that were built for them: Rahat, Tel Sheva, Kuseifa, Lakiyya, Hura, Aro’er and Segev Shalom. A significant part of the Bedouins indeed did move to these towns and changed their lifestyle considerably, but tribalism has also moved from the desert to the city: the neighborhoods in the city are usually settled according to the tribal code, and the people’s conduct and behavior still have traditional tribal characteristics: in one of the Bedouin towns in the Negev, a child was run over by a member of another tribe, and every child belonging to the driver’s tribe stopped walking to the neighborhood school, since they had each become a potential murder victim, in revenge for the child that had been run over. They demanded that the state build a special school for them, because the way to the school passes through the neighborhood of the child that was killed, and therefore they can no longer walk to the general school in the community.
Moving to the town does not solve the issue of polygamy, since in the cities as well, there are families in which one man lives with several wives according to Islamic Shari’a, despite its being a transgression of the laws of the state. And many Bedouins in the towns continue to earn their living from illegal occupations. The state hesitates to enforce its laws on the Bedouin sector, and this is obvious in the lack of enforcement of the planning and building laws. Local politics in Bedouin towns is based on the tribe, and inter-tribal conflicts make it difficult for the local authorities to function. In many cases, when a Bedouin town’s council becomes dysfunctional due to endless conflicts between the tribes, the interior minister is forced to disband the municipal council, dismiss the mayor and appoint a committee and a mayor from outside to manage the town.
In conclusion: the basis of the problem with the Bedouin sector is that it has been left behind on the platform as the train of the state has progressed into the twenty first century. Great parts of the Bedouin sector still live tribal lives, according to rules that are contrary to the laws of the state. The tribal lifestyle influences all areas of life – type of housing, education, occupation and family relations – and interferes with the state’s ability to solve the problems of its citizens in the Bedouin sector. The state has never tried to deal with the problem in a holistic way, but has rather tried to solve the problem of housing without regard to dealing with the other problems. This is where the difficulties in dealing with the problem of lands and housing stem from. In the absence of a state policy, the door is opened for the involvement of foreign bodies such as the Islamic movement, which exploits the confusion in the state’s institutions, and conducts a boom of illegal building on state lands in projects that include thousands of people who come from other areas into the Negev for one day for just this purpose. These projects are carried out openly with many advertisements before and afterwards, and the state doesn’t do a thing; it is paralyzed when confronted with the determination of the Islamic movement.
The thread that ties together all of the problems related to Bedouins is the Bedouin culture, which is based on the tribe. Tribal culture is a high barrier that separates the Bedouin public from life in a modern state that conducts itself according to the law of equality for all of its citizens. If the state desires to bring the Bedouins to a situation where they are normative citizens, it must not only take them out of the desert, it must take the desert out of them. The solution to the Bedouin problem in the Negev must not be limited to dealing with the matter of housing, since the problem of housing is only a small part of the tribal culture. If the state desires to solve the problem at its root it must take care of problems that are a result of tribal culture.
The treatment of the Bedouins must involve a holistic, inclusive approach, and relate to all areas of life: housing, occupation, education and family relations. Moreover, the state must relate to the Bedouin lawbreaker as it does to any other lawbreaker, and if he breaks the law, the state must not treat him leniently just because he was born to a large and powerful Bedouin tribe that can exert pressure on the enforcement agencies.
Towns for Bedouins must be planned, with infrastructures for water, sewage, electricity and communications, and with public institutions, industrial areas, employment and social services. The state must invest all of the necessary resources in this effort so that the Bedouin towns in the Negev will be equal to any other city in the state of Israel. On the other hand, private building, scattered outside the communities, must be considered a severe transgression of the laws of the state, and these lawbreakers must be tried and punished. The state must behave toward its citizens in the Negev exactly as it does toward citizens in Tel Aviv or in Herzliya, because if it is not so, severe discrimination is created between the citizens of the state: the situation would exist where the citizen in Tel Aviv is forbidden to build illegally on state land, while a citizen in the Negev is permitted.