A large crowd of Arab citizens in the Bedouin city of Rahat await construction permits on February 28, 2017. With only 350 permits available, many left empty-handed.
The Kaminitz bill, which will increase home demolitions and further criminalize unauthorized housing and construction, is expected to pass its final reading in the Knesset before March 20, 2017. Following an order from the Prime Minister’s office to begin procedures to pass the law, the bill entered its second reading in the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee on Monday, January 30, where it is expected to pass on March 16. Accordingly, the Mossawa Center calls for far-reaching amendments so as to lessen destruction in Arab communities and to provide planning alternatives to “illegal” construction in the first place.
The State of Israel has allocated lands and provided planning services for over six hundred Jewish communities since its establishment in 1948, yet it has not created a single Arab locality, aside from the seven it established to concentrate the Bedouin community in the south. Meanwhile, the government refuses to recognize many of the preexisting Arab villages. These communities, with populations ranging from the hundreds to the upper thousands, do not have permits for their homes, fields, places of worship, or other communal spaces. Their status as “unrecognized” also precludes them from accessing basic services, such as water, electricity, sewage, and roads. The state refuses to provide these services on the basis of the villages’ “illegal” status, leaving them with little choice but to construct without permission.
The state’s deliberate unwillingness to approve master plans for Arab localities and distribute building permits has given rise to a housing shortage in official Arab localities, as well, leaving many with no option other than to build and inhabit structures that are not officially recognized. Only four Arab localities (Nazareth, Taibeh, Tira, and Abu Basma) have planning and building committees. The other Arab localities must rely on regional councils, which do not have the capacity to provide adequate attention or resources for small, local development projects and often prioritize Jewish localities. This results in disproportionately high unlicensed construction in the Arab community.
The Kaminitz bill seeks to criminalize building violations and intensify enforcement of the law through increased home demolitions, larger fines, and heavier sentences for offenders. It will do this, in part, by concentrating power in the Treasury and by diminishing the jurisdiction and discretion of the court.
Any resident of al-Araqib, a village that the state has demolished over one hundred times, can attest to the Israeli government’s harsh approach to planning and building enforcement, both past and present. Despite such draconian efforts, building without permission in the Arab sector has persisted. Consequently, many have stressed the need to address the underlying causes of such construction (see, for example, the Alternative Master Plan for Unrecognized Bedouin Villages in the Negev and the Goldberg Report). The Mossawa Center, as well, calls on the State of Israel to explore alternatives to harsh enforcement of laws that it continues to compel its Arab citizens to break in the first place.
The Mossawa Center asks that members of the Knesset focus their attention on the roots of unauthorized construction and, in turn, propose and support amendments to the Kaminitz bill that will provide a sustainable solution for those living in unrecognized settings. Under no circumstances should the state allocate the funds from Resolution 922 (a much-needed, government-approved resolution for economic development in the Arab sector) for the implementation of the Kaminitz Law. We ask that the state incorporate Arab municipalities and communities in plans for development in Arab areas and that the state go forward with updating municipal master plans for Arab localities. We demand equitable land administration and an end to home demolitions until the state provides acceptable alternatives. Finally, the Mossawa Center calls on the State of Israel to recognize the historical, cultural, and social rights of the Bedouin community and, in turn, recognize unrecognized villages in the Negev and the Galilee.
On January 11, 2017, the police demolished eleven homes in the city of Qalansawa.
On January 18, 2017, the police demolished eight homes and four other buildings in the unrecognized village of Um al-Hiran. A school teacher, Yaqoub Abu al-Qia’an, and a police officer, Erez Levi, were killed.
You can support the community and prevent further home demolitions and internal conflict by demanding the following ministers oppose/amend the Kaminitz bill:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon
Minister of Construction and Housing Yoav Galant
Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel
Minister of Interior Aryeh Mahlouf Deri
Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked
Tel: 972-2-6708511 6527