'TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — According to an Israeli media report, the Israeli government has completed work on a massive, far-reaching plan that would expel an estimated 36,000 Palestinians from “unrecognized” villages in the Negev Desert. If the plan is approved by the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, its implementation could begin as soon as this year and would take four years to complete. News of the plan was first published by Israel Hayom – Israel’s largest Hebrew-language newspaper, funded by Sheldon Adelson, the top donor to both U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The plan — compiled by Uri Ariel, Israel’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, and his staff — features the seizure of an estimated 260,00 dunams (64,247 acres) from Palestine’s Bedouins. The size of the territory in question and the high number of Palestinians set to be affected has led some to call the plan the largest “land grab” of Palestinian-inhabited land since 1948, when the state of Israel was founded.
Israel Hayom’s report stated that, per the new plan, the Palestinian villages would be demolished and the ruins of their homes would then become the sites of “national projects,” infrastructure projects, and “security” installations after the forcible “transfer” of the land’s current inhabitants to other “state-approved” settlements such as Tel Sheva, Abu Talul and Umm Batin. The report noted that a major motivation behind the plan’s creation was the transfer of an arms-industry factory from another part of Israel to the Negev, as well as the expansion of the “Trans-Israel Highway” system.
Furthermore, the plan involves calling for a budget increase to boost the presence of law enforcement officials involved in the forcible “transfer” and in the demolition of Palestinian villages.
Rights groups have yet to comment on the newly announced plan targeting Palestinian communities in the Negev. However, Human Rights Watch has previously condemned Israel’s targeting of “unrecognized” Palestinian villages in the region. In 2016, Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division, stated:
The forcible eviction of Bedouin residents to make way for a new Jewish town would be a blatant and ugly episode of discrimination mirroring Israel’s unlawful settlements. Long after most of the rest of the world has such rejected racist policies, the Israeli government keeps building and razing communities on the basis of religion and ethnicity.”
Read more: “Largest Land Grab Since 1948” — Israel to Expel 36,000 Palestinians From Negev