A proposal by Labor Chairman and Minister of Economy Amir Peretz to promote regulation of the illegal Bedouin settlement enterprise and establish new settlements for Bedouin in the Negev was dropped on Tuesday from the government’s agenda following threats from a long list of ministers that they would vote to kill it as long as the government does not regulate Jewish settlements in peril in Judea and Samaria.
On Tuesday, MK Bezalel Smotrich (Yamina) tweeted: “Netanyahu continues his fire sale of Zionism and right-wing values and is right now approving in the government the underhanded deal of establishing 3 new Bedouin settlements in the Negev.”
Smotrich noted: “Of course, he does not bring up regulating the young settlements in Judea and Samaria.”
“The young settlements” is the rightwing version of what the leftwing media call “illegal outposts.” They include communities that have been on the ground for twenty years and a couple of caravans and a tent on a hillside where none has been since yesterday. Their common denominator is that despite years of promises and mountains of proposed legislation, the supposedly rightwing and Haredi governments led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have failed to make them legitimate. It means that on any given day, a column of Border Guard cops and a row of bulldozers can show up and tear them down, with no recourse or protection.
The Eretz Israel lobby in the Knesset, headed by Smotrich and MK Haim Katz (Likud), followed the tweet with a call on ministers to oppose the Bedouin regulation as long as the regulation of the young settlements remains off Netanyahu’s agenda. They were joined by the Young Settlement Forum, and together this generated a barrage of press announcements by these ministers (at last count): Ze’ev Elkin, Tzachi Hanegbi, Yuli Edelstein, Dudi Amsalem, Gila Gamliel, Ofir Akunis, Yoav Galant, Eli Cohen, Miri Regev (Likud), Rafi Peretz (Habayit Hayehudi), Aryeh Deri, Yaakov Avitan (Shas).
And so, facing certain defeat in the ministerial legislation committee, Minister Peretz was forced to withdraw his bill. Perhaps if he were more inclined to support Jewish settlers, he would have been able to help his Bedouin neighbors (Peretz lives in Sderot, where he used to be the mayor).