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Netanyahu: The Bedouin ‘need to be part of Israel’s success story’

The prime minister convenes discussion on issues of education, illegal settlement, crime and polygamy in the sector.

The Ministerial Committee on Legalizing the Settlement and the Economic Development of the Bedouin Sector meets, June 20, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.
The Ministerial Committee on Legalizing the Settlement and the Economic Development of the Bedouin Sector meets, June 20, 2023. Photo by Haim Zach/GPO.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday convened the first meeting of the Ministerial Committee on Legalizing the Settlement and the Economic Development of the Bedouin Sector in the Negev.

“While the Negev is indeed flourishing, there is a major problem in the Negev. We need the Bedouin to be part of this great success story, in every respect. This is the goal of this meeting and the additional meetings that we will hold,” the prime minister said.

Minister for Social Equality Amichai Chikli presented a review of the situation of the Bedouin in the Negev. With professionals, he also detailed the plan to advance the legalization of the community’s unauthorized settlements for 2023-25.

“After expedited work, in cooperation with all ministries, the Legalization Authority and the Negev Bedouin Authority, we are bringing to the Cabinet table a national five-year plan the purpose of which will be to legalize Bedouin settlement in the Negev,” Chikli said.

Legalization efforts will focus on the Bedouin urban centers of Rahat and Hura. He said northern Arad’s nature and scenic vistas must be cleared of clusters of illegal construction.

Netanyahu asked National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir to prepare a plan to fight criminal organizations harming the population as a whole.

Education Minister Yoav Kisch noted the language gap that is hurting the social integration of the Bedouin population. Netanyahu requested that a plan be prepared on increasing Hebrew-language studies as a means for integration in academia and employment.

Regarding the polygamy issue, Justice Ministry officials discussed how the phenomenon is being handled, and its negative consequences. Until now, authorities have been notified only upon a man taking a third wife or more.

Netanyahu rescinded this directive; notification will now be made in the case of a man having two wives. He asked the Justice Ministry to submit a proposal within two weeks on how to deal with polygamy.

A proposal, which still requires approval, would establish a professional team to deal with the incentives that encourage the phenomenon, especially regarding support payments and National Insurance allotments. The proposal would also add 14 designated positions to the law enforcement establishment for the government’s fight against polygamy.

Chikli said, “The plan that has been submitted here is not grandiose but rather achievable, with goals that can be measured. I believe that in this way we can achieve results, with God’s help.”

Polygamy has been illegal in Israel since 1977, punishable by a five-year jail sentence and a fine. However, the law is rarely enforced.

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