Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. While Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Suleiman Ara’ara has lived all his life in this arid valley that joins the West Bank to Israel.
He has nine children and 10 grandchildren.
But when he built a house for one of his sons, the Israelis bulldozed it down.
It is, he said, part of a forced relocation plan for his tribe that will destroy their way of life.
“This is a death sentence that will be felt for the next 100 years, a death sentence to our lifestyle, our traditions, the livelihood of the Bedouin," said Ara’ara. "The life of the Bedouin will have become extinct.”
Rare co-ed Bedouin schools, like this one built with international aid, will be pulled down as the tribes are forced to leave, said deputy headmistress Maryam Abughali.
“I predict most of the students will miss their chance at an education, and that means complete illiteracy," said Abughali.
Israeli officials told VOA the relocation is in the Bedouins’ best interests.
But Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the U.N. Relief Agency for Palestinian Refugees, warned the result will be far more damaging.
“It is a stake through the heart of the two-state political solution because the clear plan is to move these people out, move in settlers, build settlements that will cut the West bank in half and effectively make Jerusalem inaccessible to thousands of Palestinians," said Gunness. "It will be the end of the two-state solution.”
The United Nations says about 12,500 Bedouins -- most of them Palestinian refugees registered with the United Nations -- are to be moved to organized housing in newly created towns in eastern Israel.