Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Bedouin 'not yet ready' for democracy, 61 years after birth of the state

Amram Kalani (in the middle with kipa and microphone), appointed chairman of regional council of Abu-Basma, visits a school in one of the villages. 

Six years ago the Israeli government established the regional council of Abu- Basma for a number of Bedouin villages near Beer el-Sabe (Beer Sheva) in the Naqab (Negev) desert. This happened after a long batlle of these villages to be recognized. Ten of them got their official recognition, several others are still waiting te be made official. The council was put under the leadership of an appointed Israeli mayor. The council  is responsible for providing certain services for residents of the unrecognized villages as well. Approximately 30.000 people fall within its jurisdiction.
One of the tasks of the mayor was to prepare elections that were to be held one year later. They were postponed instead, till December 2009, supposedly because the inhabitants of the Abu Basma region were not yet sufficiently prepared. But just one month before they finally were going to take place, the Israeli Knesset on 16 November adopted a special amendment to the Regional Authorities' Law, which again postponed the elections.This time for an indefinit period.
The new law will maintain the government-appointed council, which is comprised of a majority of Israeli Jewish members and chaired by Amram Kalani, someone close to the orthodox right-wing Shas party, to which the Interior minister, who initiated the amendment of the law, also belongs. 
The new law gives the Interior minister absolute power to declare the postponement of the first election of a Regional Council after its establishment. No period of time is specified. Prior to the new amendment, the law stipulated that elections must be held within four years.
 The Human Rights Organization Adalah, which is mainly concerned with the right of the minorities in Israel, will challenge the law. Adalah attorney Ala' Mahajneh sent an urgent letter on 9 November 2009 to the Interior Minister, Eli Yishai, and Knesset Speaker, Reuven Rivlin, demanding that they reject the proposed amendment and remove it from the Knesset's voting agenda. The letter also demanded the holding of elections. Now that the amendment has been adopted, Adalah is petitioning the High Court.

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