Joint Arab List sets out on protest march for Bedouin rights
Joint List head Ayman Odeh, in white shirt, and Israeli left-wing MP Dov Khenin, on right, march alongside several dozen protesters in the Bedouin village of Wadi al-Naam on March 26, 2015. (AFP/Ahmad Gharabli)
Lawmakers from the Joint List of Arab parties set out Thursday on a four-day protest march from an unrecognized Bedouin village in the Negev desert.
The march, led by party head Ayman Odeh, is scheduled to reach the President’s Office in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Representatives from the unrecognized villages and from the Joint List, which swept into the Knesset with 13 seats, said the goal of the march was to raise awareness about the living conditions in the unrecognized towns, and to present the president with a plan for their recognition.
Protesters headed out from the Wadi al-Na’am village, one of 46 Bedouin Negev towns they are asking the government to recognize.
In addition to the Joint List legislators, participants in the march included the mayor of Rahat, which is one of four recognized Bedouin cities, the head of the unrecognized villages regional council, and the heads of nearby regional council Abu Rabia and Hura.
Sympathetic Arab and Jewish Israelis were also expected to join for stretches of the four-day event.
Odeh was slated to present President Reuven Rivlin with the Bedouin proposal for recognizing their settlements at his official residence Sunday, but Rivlin will be in Singapore for the funeral of the country’s first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
Rivlin and Odeh spoke by phone Thursday, and agreed to meet upon the president’s return.
The march is scheduled to pass through several unrecognized towns, as well as Beersheba, Beit Guvrin, Abu Ghosh and Jerusalem.
Large segments of the Bedouin population live a semi-nomadic existence in unplanned tent villages that dot the Negev landscape and as far north as Jerusalem and the West Bank.
The government-backed Prawer Plan, canceled in 2013 amid violent protests, called for Israel to officially recognize and register many of these “unrecognized villages” while relocating residents of others into towns and planned communities. The government argued that the growing population required planning and urbanization, while Arab activists insisted the plan amounted to a land-grab driven by anti-Arab prejudice.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
By Lazar Berman
© 2015 The Times of Israel. All rights reserved.
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