After the war ended in 1949, Israel began to settle lands in the Negev, ostensibly to determine and register property titles to the lands located in the area. In practice, the process resulted in vast areas declared state land. In 1966, representatives of 17 Bedouin tribes submitted a petition to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol: “We have been waiting patiently for 18 years. Our rights have been denied, and we have endured much pain and suffering. We cannot continue to suffer as we endlessly wait for a just solution.”
Settling Bedouins’ Land Issues in the Negev
In November 1948, representatives of the Bedouin tribes that remained in the Negev desert after the war swore allegiance to the State of Israel, as Bedouin leaders remind the prime minister in their letter: The Honorable Prime Minister is surely aware that from the date of our state’s inception, we have been under its auspices and accepted its authority […] In 1948, we contacted the Honorable Military Governor […] and expressed our wish to assume upon ourselves said authority. One of the conditions included in our request was to live on our lands and work together with the rest of the country’s residents. The government approved the content of our request at the time, and on this basis, we agreed to remain in our Israeli state.” After their expectations were not met, the authors listed four demands, most importantly, official recognition of Bedouins’ title to their lands.
Petition submitted to the prime minister regarding Bedouin lands in the Negev
The letter delivered by a staff officer in the Military Rule Department provides updates on further developments in the wake of the Bedouin petition, including a meeting held at the Prime Minister’s Office with about 70 representatives from all Bedouin tribes, a visit by Bedouin delegates to the Military Rule headquarters in the Negev, and a meeting Bedouin representatives had with staff from Israel’s widest circulating newspapers. Given that no agreement with the Bedouins was on the horizon and the fear that the issue might escalate and reverberate outside Israel, it was recommended that “the IDF should formulate a position ahead of addressing this issue.”
Negev Bedouins’ land issues - petition to the prime minister
With resentment growing in the Bedouin community, and after a petition was sent to the prime minister, the military’s leadership convened a meeting to discuss the military’s response. The main principles were detailed in a document, section a. of which reads as follows: “We shall take care to keep from being dragged into the political sphere on this topic and remain in the field of defense only.” This statement, however, did not stop the military officials from stating that the military continues to support a settlement with the Bedouins while adhering to the principles it had espoused until then: maintaining land reserves for Jewish settlement, separating the tribes, and keeping Bedouins away from major routes.