Bedouin communities in the Negev: Models for planning the unplanned

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem: Conflict roils around recognition, planning, and appropriate municipal frameworks for Israel's 194,000 Negev Bedouin, especially the 45,000 Bedouin living in dispersed, unauthorized settlements, housed in tents and cinderblock shacks, lacking municipal water, sewage, or electricity, and accessible only by dirt tracks. Purpose: We examine both the universal (indigenous peoples) and unique (to the Bedouin) aspects of the land claims and planning challenges facing the Israeli Bedouin of the Negev. We seek to shift the focus of land disputes to planning paradigms that facilitate negotiated agreements, which may overcome the impasse between the Bedouin (struggling for land, municipal recognition, and equal economic opportunities) and the Israeli government that perceives the Bedouin as a growing demographic threat and a potential fifth column. We develop a model that builds on the convergence of spatial and socioeconomic forces, reflecting the interplay between Bedouin traditionalism and modernization in developing planning frameworks, and creating an arena of negotiation that balances the interests of the contending stakeholders. Methods: Our methodology is multifaceted: Over a three-year period we conducted in-depth interviews, workshops, and observations, and engaged in a review of the planning literature in indigenous societies, Negev Bedouin society, municipal reforms, societies undergoing modernization through urbanization, and relevant master and statutory plans. Results and conclusions: The universal phenomenon of the clash between traditional cultures and modernization has sharpened with the spread of urbanization into rural areas, presenting a challenge to centralized planning processes. The planning model presents a range of planning options that simplify complex conflicts of interests, needs and goals between the Bedouin and the national and local Israeli governments. Results suggest that diametrically opposite positions may be reconciled by identifying an arena of negotiations within which planning options can be developed through discourse, rather than imposing centrally developed plans that might trigger strong, if not volatile, opposition. Takeaway for practice: While this research deals with conflict over land between traditional and modern societies in Israel, the planning paradigms have international applicability. Forces for economic development and urbanization often compete with environmentalists or indigenous groups clinging to their land to maintain their ways of life. Culturally adaptive versions of collaborative planning are crucial to successful dispute resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-125
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Planning Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011


  • Negev Bedouin
  • land disputes
  • municipal structures
  • negotiations
  • planning paradigm model
  • traditionalism versus modernization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Bedouin communities in the Negev: Models for planning the unplanned'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this