Israel to freeze plan to build mine that would displace Bedouins after 'Islamist party pressure': report

Israel to freeze plan to build mine that would displace Bedouins after 'Islamist party pressure': report
2 min read
06 January, 2022
Up to 36,000 Bedouins from Al-Fura'a village could have been displaced if construction of the mine went ahead
The phosphate plan could displace thousands of Palestinian Bedouins [Getty]

Israel has frozen a plan to expel a Palestinian Bedouin community from their village in the Negev Desert in order to build a phosphate mine in the area after immense pressure from the country's right-wing Islamist party, according to reports.

The Sde Barir phosphate mine was set to be built on the Arad Valley, the only significant remaining phosphate reserve in Israel. Palestinian Bedouin residents of the area's Al-Fura'a village would be at risk of displacement should the plan go ahead.

The plan would have forced 36,000 Bedouins from their homes, according to Adalah, a legal rights organisation for Palestinians who live within Israel's 1948 boundaries.

The mine's construction was suspended after Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg appealed its authorisation.

The United Arab List - a Palestinian Islamist party which is a member of the coalition government - had a major role in this decision, sources in the government coalition told Haaretz on the condition of anonymity.

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The controversial plan will be frozen until government policies on the issue are reviewed, which will take place within 180 days. The review will consider economic and environmental aspects, although it is not yet clear if there will be a direct focus on the impact on the Bedouin community.

A similar review that would allow the plan to move forward was previously removed, following a request by Walid Taha of the UAL, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Haaretz said.

Right-wing Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked - who is a strong supporter of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank - heads up the committee to build Sde Barir.

Taha said in an interview on Tuesday that the forces behind the controversial project “see only money, not the people of Arad and Kseifa.”

"You can't manage a country only with economic considerations. The state exists for its people, and you have to consider them," added Taha, who chairs the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee.

Israel has routinely dispossessed Palestinian Bedouins, who often face expulsion and home demolition.